The Daily Stoic for February the 8th. “Did that make you feel better?”
“You cry, I’m suffering severe pain! Are you then relieved from feeling it, if you bear it in an unmanly way?”
—SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 78.17
Just some moments ago, I was trying to focus on some work here at TechHub Riga. As this is a startup co-working space, chances are there’s probably some kids playing foosball at any given moment.
However, this time, they were also playing loud rap music, because, why not?
This is probably where it shows I am already 38.
It got to a point where I could no longer concentrate on my work. I had closed the door separating our spaces several times, in an attempt to not disturb anyone while being able to keep on working, only to find out they had opened it again to go for a beer at the cafeteria.
I got up, went to their room and asked loudly “Hey guys! Do you mind turning the volume down? Some of us are trying to work in here!”.
Not that I said that aggressively or anything, but probably there are better, more polite ways of addressing this situation.
Did That Make You Feel Better?
Undoubtely YES, at least for a very brief moment, it actually did. Not that I think that’s a good or bad think, but the feeling is indisputable.
Nevertheless, 5 minutes later, the door was still open and they were still yelling on every goal and playing the same music.
So, it was not a very useful reaction from me.
The lesson here is that, apart from the purely emotional relief that we experiment when we allow our feelings to explode like that, we don’t usually solve our problems that way.
Maybe I should have tried reasoning with them. After all, persuasion is better than force, or so they say.
Be Tolerant With Others And Strict With Yourself
It was Marcus Aurelius who said that: “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself”.
Clearly, I should have been more tolerant with them. I usually fail to put myself in the place of other people. Maybe they weren’t even aware they were bothering me.
Conversely, I should have been more strict with myself, and probably a lot more clever. Another kind of reaction would have resulted in a better output for me… now would it?
I don’t know why, but deep inside, I don’t think they would have reacted differently or changed their attitude if I had asked it differently.
But that’s exactly the point. It’s not about how they react, it’s all about how we react to things.
Today’s Daily Stoic uses the question “Did that make you feel better?” to analyze how we react to certain circumstances. Specifically, how useful or not these kind of emotional reactions -anger, panic, desperation- are to solve our problems.
While an irreflexive emotional response can make you feel momentarily better, it won’t help you get out of that situation.
At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of being strict with ourselves -and our reactions- while being tolerant with others.