I believe that being considerate is a vital part of being a decent human being. We should always have empathy and think of how others are feeling. But, I also think many of us have a wrong understanding of what being considerate is, and it can prevent us from having thriving relationships and meaningful connections with others as well as receiving the help we need.
I can speak for myself as a person who truly tries to be considerate. I want to be perceived as a caring, thoughtful person. But sometimes I am too quick to rescue someone if the seem uncomfortable. I might be asking something from them, and they hesitate, and I jump in and say “it’s okay!”, willingly taking the back burner instead of giving them space to think things over on their own. As a result, I start to feel as if I’m not as important. But it’s my own fault for making it easy for other people to say no to me, by being over-considerate. I have to take responsibility for that.
Let’s start out with the definition of the word considerate.
con·sid·er·ate/kənˈsidərət/ Learn to pronounce adjective adjective: considerate
- careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others.”the quietest and most considerate tenants possible
Healthy Ways to be Considerate
There are healthy ways to be considerate. I like this example from WIkiHow.
“Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Before you talk to your friend, co-worker, neighbor, or teacher, ask yourself how that person might be feeling just then. Maybe you’re mad at your roommate and want to tell her she’s too messy, or you want to ask your best friend to stop calling you so much. Well, before you have a conversation about how you really feel, you need to think about how the other person would react, and to put yourself in their frame of mind. While you shouldn’t have to change what you want to say completely to suit another person’s needs, thinking of the situation from the other person’s perspective can help you best articulate what you want to say while minimizing hurt feelings.
- Maybe your roommate is really messy, but she’s also the one who does all of the grocery shopping. You should find a way to compliment her good qualities as well as her bad ones so she doesn’t get defensive or feel like you don’t appreciate her as a roommate.
- Maybe your best friend is calling a lot because she’s been lonely ever since her boyfriend broke up with her. You can still say what you want to say, but be considerate of her feelings and try to think of it from her perspective before you proceed.”
So as you see, being considerate doesn’t mean stuffing your feelings. It means you consider things before you act, and adjust your approach accordingly. Here are some more examples:
- Arriving on time
- Cleaning up after yourself
- Offering to bring food to a gathering
- Offering help
- Being prepared
- Saying sorry
- Sending a thank you note
- Doing a random act of kindness
- Giving up your seat for an elderly person
Situations When We Get it Wrong
I think sometimes we think we are being holy by putting ourselves last. Indeed, sacrifice is a part of holiness. Service is a part of holiness. Put so is loving ourselves in a right way. Sometimes we make ourselves so small that we stuff our feelings, forget our desires, and pretend we don’t have needs. We can’t go on like this for long without becoming resentful and we may even develop mental illness. God designed us to rely on each other. We have to give and take. We all have needs and wants and we are all called to service. Sometimes relationships are so out of balance where one person is doing everything and the other person is reaping all of the reward. The person doing everything is dying inside and the other one is not growing spiritually. I think this quote demonstrates a right way of looking at ourselves:
We can’t shine if we are exhausted. We can’t shine if we are resentful. We can’t shine if we are lonely. We have to stop rescuing people from being uncomfortable. They will be okay. They will probably be better off.
Here are some examples of when we may be getting being considerate wrong.
- “I can’t call because she’s too busy”
- She just had a baby so she wouldn’t want to hang out.
- It’s the evening time so they are probably busy with family time and wouldn’t want to have some friend time.
- I can’t make plans because someone might need me.
- I can’t want something because it might bother someone else.
- My husband worked hard all day so I should do the dishes, put the kids to bed, clean the house, do all the things.
- I can’t be honest because I might hurt their feelings.
- I’ll wait to ask for help until the right time comes.
What We Should Do Instead
Always ask. Always self-advocate. Always make plans. Always ask for help. You have to trust that the other person will say no if they can’t, and then you can be considerate by respecting their boundaries. You also have to stop fearing rejection and be vulnerable enough to the possibility that you could be the only one desiring connection. That’s okay. If I waited when my friends were ready to connect I might see them twice in the next 20 years. I have to take personal responsibility for my desire to have connection.
We need to be considerate of our own needs before jumping in to help others, unless it’s an emergency of course. When someone asks something of us, we don’t have to say yes right away. We can consider our needs, and compromise with them. This even works for kids!
When it comes to telling someone our feelings, we have to remember, hurting isn’t harming.
When it comes to asking for help, you have to give up control and be a burden to someone else. After all, you DO have needs and you AREN’T God. You ARE but a child of God.
What this looks like:
- I’m having some trouble at home, can I come stay over at your house to have some safe time?
- When’s a good time to have a catch up call? (and actually schedule it)
- I miss you and need to see you. Let’s set a date.
- Can you help me? If they can’t or are too tired, okay. At least you asked!
- I’d love to have you guys stay overnight, let’s schedule a time.
- What if we had a recurring friend date?
- It made me (feeling) when you did (action) because I thought (what you thought). I’d like to hear your side of the story.
- Call anyway.
- Knock on the door, show up, just be ready to leave if it’s a bad time.
- It’s good for all the people who rely on us to practice some independence. That’s how they grow. So yeah, take a break! Make plans. Life will go on without you.
For more ideas on healthy boundaries in relationships, check out this book.