Ten reasons you aren’t as civilised as you pretend

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1. In company you will carefully scrape off the yoghurt stuck to the lid with a spoon, at home you’ll just lick it off.

2. You tell people you joined a martial arts class because you like to try interesting things and wanted to meet new people, but really you just like having an excuse to hit other people without getting in trouble.

3. You pretend you watch Eurovision because you are an ironic spectator of a regional mass-entertainment event, actually you just love the cheesy tunes, over the top outfits and ridiculous antics of the competitors.

4. You get ridiculously excited about free stuff, you have no qualms about accepting giveaways, you gleefully take free pencils and paper rulers from IKEA and you shamelessly eat other people’s leftovers (when offered to you, you wouldn’t go as far as steal people’s lunches from the fridge or raid their trash or anything).

5. When someone takes two of the four sandwich squares you’d carefully saved for lunch, from an event you worked at until 9pm the day before, and you then discover that of the two remaining sandwiches one has a big dead fly in it, rather than expressing disgust at the dead insect and throwing the offending article away, you express disgust and then quietly flick the fly away, along with the piece of aubergine it had met its demise on, and then continue to eat both sandwiches. You may tell yourself you’d have been pickier if your lunch hadn’t already been halved for you by some unscrupulous sandwich thief, but you doubt it.

6. You would never dream of leaving your apartment in jogging bottoms (unless actually exercising) but would happily spend an entire day inside the flat in the same pyjamas you sleep in.

7. You really can’t tell the difference between Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or any other variety of sparling wine. If it’s alcoholic with bubbles, then you are happily going to drink it.

8. You can only tell the difference between a fake and a genuine Louis Vuitton bag by location. You assume if someone is sporting an LV bag in Geneva it’s genuine, in Greenwich it’s fake.

9. You would never dream of expressing obscenities directed at a stranger in face to face scenarios, but from the safety of a car (or a bike helmet with visor), when no one can hear to judge, you will unfailingly shout all sorts of rude words at the twat who just cut you up.

10. You wouldn’t belch or bottom-parp in a meeting but yet have no trepidations in letting rip in front of your fiancé or friends and then giggling like a child afterwards whilst trying to blame the outburst on the cat.

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Judge, Jury and Executioner

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“I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who am I to judge?” – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I am a huge fan of the Humans of New York (HONY) website (you can also follow the page on facebook for feel-good hits throughout the day). Brandon, the man behind HONY, takes a photo of a random individual and then he asks a few probing questions to get a snapshot of that person’s story. The images instantly evoke one idea, but the brief snippet of dialogue calls us to question our preconceptions and think a little bit more about the human behind the image.

From the snappily dressed businessman, to the homeless man to a middle-aged couple everyone has their story to tell and it isn’t necessarily reflected by their outward appearances. HONY is a brilliant blog that reaches an audience of millions and is teaching all of us to think before we judge.

I believe it comes naturally to judge people, we can’t help it. But we can try to overcome this tendency by questioning why we do this.

We are human and we respond with a variety of emotions, that we don’t consciously control, towards those around us. These feelings have been shaped by our experiences and the societal norms we unconsciously absorb every day.

So if we feel uncomfortable if someone asks for our number that’s probably because we have had a bad experience in the past. We then project that recognition of a negative encounter onto a new situation. If we feel awkward when a homeless man asks us for money it’s because we feel having a home is important and their approaching us makes us question why some people don’t have this.

If someone is constantly late or fails to show up to a meeting we may decide they are unreliable. We are interpreting their actions by what is important to us. In this case keeping to an agreed appointment is important to us and therefore we negatively judge anyone who does not attribute the same importance to this. Late again - BP image

But that same person, that regularly flakes out on you, may also be someone who would drop everything, including bailing on existing commitments, to be there for you if you really needed them. And this may be a trait we also rate highly even though it contradicts the first.

We may think a person is wonderful because we respect X, Y and Z characteristics and therefore admire those in others or we may think someone is terrible because of traits A, B and C that we don’t value. Someone else might think aspects A, B and C are much more admirable than X, Y and Z.

There is no right answer as to what’s better, it’s simply personal preference. Judgement is, therefore, entirely subjective.

It’s easy to judge others. It’s easy to think so-and-so at work is stuck up and looks down on us, or that someone is unnecessarily rude to us, or that another person who makes us tea on a daily person is the best person to ever walk the planet.

But judging others says more about us than them. If we think someone is looking down on us then that reveals our own insecurities by suggesting we think they have something to look down on. If someone is rude to us we should think about why it bothers us or what has happened to them to cause them to be so rude rather than marking them down as a ‘bad’ person. If we think it’s great that someone makes us tea it’s because we really like tea (yes, I am living up to the English stereotype) and value their thoughtfulness in thinking of our needs.

A friend, also comparatively new to Geneva, told me about an incident when she was walking home alone one evening, along an almost deserted street. She was approached by a slightly drunken man who asked for her phone number. She told him she had a boyfriend but he persisted anyway saying he just wanted to talk. When she questioned him on this he admitted with a smile that he didn’t just want to talk. When she still refused to give him her number he asked her if he could just have a hug instead.

She told me that her first thoughts were ‘absolutely not, who was this person, what if he tried to assault her, or steal from her’ but then she opened herself up to the idea that maybe he was just another human being, like her, who was just looking to make a connection. And so she agreed.

She said the hug was so warm and full of kindness that he hugged her as though she were an old friend he had known forever. And then he left. Without having taken any of her belongings, without attacking her and without asking again for her phone number. Months later and she still remembers how wonderful that hug felt.

If we are aware of our tendency to judge then maybe we can try to check that natural feeling and open ourselves up to the idea that every single one of us is a unique and fascinating person, subject to their own experiences and with their own stories to tell that has shaped who they are. This planet is a vibrant tapestry of interesting people from every walk of life and if we could be less judgemental then maybe we could give these people an opportunity to enrich our lives.

(Please note I take no responsibility for anyone who opens up their lives to a complete bunch of nutters unless that person is also a nutter and now has lots of nutty friends in which case I will take full credit.)