Since writing the post, I’ve read a book that accelerated my progress towards being more ‘at peace’ (for lack of a better phrase) and a better listener. It’s called ‘The Pursuit of Perfect’ by Tal Ben Shahar, who also wrote another book that helped, called ‘Happier’.
In a nutshell, he contrasts the ‘perfectionists’ and the ‘optimalists’, and recommends being the latter. One of his arguments that is relevant to this discussion, and that particularly struck a chord with me, was the fact that ‘perfectionists’ (as defined by him) look at progress as a straight line, with any failure viewed as negative and a step backwards. On the other hand, ‘optimalists’ view progress as a winding path that also includes tangled circlular sections. Since their expectations are set differently, they are less impacted by failure, and less hard on themselves than the ‘perfectionists’. And as a result, they are less harsh on others as well.
When I read his explanation (much better detailed than the paragraph above), I realized that Im usually pretty harsh on myself because I have high expectations, and that I may be not as understanding and less forgiving of other people as well. Just realizing that has helped me socially significantly.
Another interesting thought experiment was realizing that I often judge peoples actions based on a comparison between their actions and how I would have acted in their situation. The breakthrough was realizing that I am not them, so putting myself in their shoes is meaningless… The real question is trying to understand how THEY feel in their shoes.
For example, I’ve become much nicer to ESTJs by understanding their need for security. Then it becomes clear that in many situations when they get angry they are actually scared or uncomfortable because of a security-related issue. So behavior that earlier seemed illogical or inconsiderate or annoying prompts a more sympathetic understanding from me.
I don’t know how this became an essay yet again, but hope this helps. I would recommend buying the ‘pursuit’ book.