The vast majority of conversations I have with my clients, and that’s hundreds of people every year, involve analysis of what other people think of them. Or what other people think about what they, the client, may be poised to do.
Whether we’re talking about their desire to leave their partner, have an affair, or the fact they’re facing bankruptcy or redundancy – the perception of those around them is never far from their mind.
We might scoff at those who fear ‘what the neighbours think’; dismiss it as a provincial attitude that might vanish with our grandparents’ generation. But this is human instinct as old as humankind itself. Embarrassment and shame are emotions that have evolved to keep us socialised: without self awareness,at least a passing concern about what others might think, we would all be sociopathic.
Further to this, maintaining good relationships – of which one element is convincing others you’re an okay person – is essential to who we are as a species.