Social Thinking Articles


Making Fuzzy Concepts Concrete

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Fuzzy concepts concrete

Updated: May, 2015
© 2019 Think Social Publishing, Inc.

When was the last time you had a "weird thought" about someone around you? Maybe in the last hour? Start to watch how much we observe people around us, including people we don't even plan to talk to, just because they are around us.

Each of our brains is supposed to be a social thought magnet! In fact, most of us cannot turn off our thoughts about people around us. These thoughts invade us all the time; we notice who hangs out together, who doesn't like each other, who seems to always want to be by themselves.

We also think a lot about how people feel. We notice when our teachers and/or parents are in good moods and/or bad moods. We notice when people are crying, angry or super happy. Notice also how you often change your own behavior based on what you think someone else is thinking about or how are they feeling. Hopefully you know it is a really BAD idea to get mad at someone who is already in a bad mood; typically they will have no patience for you and will respond back to you harshly.

The deal is that we ALL think about people every time we are around people, and we not only think about them we have feelings about them, even when we are not talking to them. That's where words like "polite", "respectful" and "cooperate" come in. You hear these words a ton, but why do people make such a big deal out of them?

Each of these words talks about ways in which we are supposed to think about how we make people feel in order to keep other people around us calm. Let's take a stab at trying to define these words, it is not as easy as you think because these are more than words, they are "concepts". Concepts talk about ideas rather than things.

  1. Being Polite: This means you treat people in a way that does not make them irritated. We have formal ways in which we can be polite (e.g. say "please" and "thank you"); there are other ways in which we are polite without talking to other people (e.g. walking around a person who has stopped to talk, rather than bumping into them).
  2. Being Respectful: This is an advanced form of being polite. When you are respectful you not only try to avoid causing irritation/frustration in others by your actions, but you also try and show the person that you appreciate their knowledge and their ideas. For example, a kid is respectful when he/she let's their teacher explain a math concept to the class that the student may already understand, without announcing that he already knows how to do it. When we are respectful we appreciate that people share knowledge, and we should let them share it even if we already know what they are talking about. Many times when we are being respectful we don't talk, we listen by showing other people we want to hear what they know.
  3. Cooperating is a special form of being polite and respectful; when you cooperate you encourage people to share ideas in a group situation and you act like you appreciate people's different ideas and what ever they do to help the group. Whether you actually appreciate their thoughts or actions, doesn't matter, it is more about whether you make people feel like you appreciate them. When you cooperate, you also help to contribute to what ever it is you and others are thinking about or working on, you just do it in a polite and respectful way. Which means sometimes you back off to let other people have a turn even if you know how to do what they are doing.

Start to notice how many thoughts you have about how people treat you. You are probably like most of us, you tend to like people who make you feel good about you. If someone treats you well you then consider that person is friendly. If they are consistently rude to you, then you have much more negative thoughts about that person. Each of our actions count when we are around others, so monitor your own behavior and how it makes other people feel since other people are already watching you (and everyone else).

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