It Really Isn't Personal...People Can't Cope

Projecting is the olympic sports of life. Here's how to handle it.

As a father of seven, grandfather of two, sipper of whisk(e)y and black coffee, and possessor of a few gray hairs, I now know things.

This knowledge accumulation began shortly after they shaved my head at boot camp at USAFA in late July 1988.

I saw it daily during my four years there and five years on active duty.

I've seen it in retail and high-tech, fin-serve, and manufacturing.

I've seen the "educated" and the "low-information" people do this.

I've seen my kids do it.

I've seen people at my church, my HOA, the school board, and coaches do it.

This knowledge is around knowing and understanding and seeing people for who they really are, i.e., what motivates them and especially what scares the pants off of them.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Thoreau was right.

Most of the people you meet are flailing inside.

They either don't realize they've been lied to, so they're sacrificing their lives and their souls to climb the corporate ladder into oblivion, or they've realized—too late, usually—that they've been lied to, but they're so high up, they don't know if they should jump, climb back down, or try to push off the wall and fly through the air to another ladder.

So they're stressed...


Pissed off.

They feel hopeless...abused...mistreated.

They are 10X harder on themselves than anyone else, and they grow bitter and cold until POW!

You cross their path at the exact wrong time, which isn't hard to do since they're running on empty on bald tires and worn-out brake pads on the regular.

(They ignore that "check engine light" just as they ignore the red underline on their documents indicating an error in their writing, but I digress.)

So, at that moment, they lash out. They light you up. They verbally beat you like a rented mule. They blame the missed quarter, the empty toilet paper roll, and global warming on you, when all you did was ask a question or give an honest answer or show up 5 minutes late.

People project because they can't cope.

Other people then take that attack personally and project back.

Next thing you know, verbal projectiles turn into physical projectiles, and then it's an all-out war.

You've seen this play out 137 times in your life in the last year alone.

How many times were you a willing escalator of projectiles?

For this new year, try this on for size: see the projecting attacker for what they are: a scared, scarred, frightened, non-coping human who is having a bad moment because they think they're having a bad life because they've allowed the liars in Hollywood and Wall Street and Silicon Valley to create their truth, which they'll never be able to live up to.

When you see this play out, you'll take a breath, nod a little, see that person in a new light, maybe see them as a person for the first time in a long time, allow their projection to fly safely over your head, deescalate the situation, and help both of you grow.

At a minimum, you won't ratchet things up.


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