A big demonstration is planned in New York City this weekend to protest police brutality and murders. And someone has put a large poster in our elevator that asks boldly, “Which side are you on?”
I’ve thought about taking it down because the very idea of villainizing the police makes me uncomfortable. While some police officers are bad apples, many — perhaps most — do good work in difficult and dangerous circumstances.
So my neighbor, Nathan, caught my attention when he sent an email to all the residents of our building saying that he would like to host a police appreciation party in his apartment.
But before doing so, Nathan wanted to know how we, his neighbors, would feel about it.
Not that he needs our permission. He doesn’t. But he wanted to gauge if hosting a gathering for police in a building was going to alienate him from the people he encounters every day.
As he put it in an email to his neighbors:
While I have the right to do as I wish, I have no freedom from consequence or perception, and I’d like to calculate the risk and see how it might affect others before I take action.
It strikes me that Nathan is right.
None of Us are Free from Consequences and Perceptions
How we behave has consequences far beyond the immediate results of our actions. How we behave shapes people’s perceptions of us. And that, in turn, shapes how they treat us.
Nathan’s behavior has shaped my perception of him. He has shown himself to be a thoughtful and considerate member of our community. He has opened the way for important conversations about a fraught, polarizing topic.
Rather than just removing the poster in the elevator, he decided to do something constructive and then he gave us all an opportunity to weigh in.
By asking our opinion, he has not just tested the waters of perception and consequences, he has shown himself to be a thoughtful and trustworthy part of our community. And that will have long term positive consequences.
Consider the Consequences of Your Behavior
While it’s not a good idea to do things for approval alone, how your actions will affect others should factor into your decisions. Ask people for their opinions about something you are thinking of doing, especially if it’s something that gives you pause. You’re not obliged to do what they say, and just by asking you’ll gain their trust and you’re likely to make a better-informed decision.
Share your thoughts about factoring in the perceptions of others to your decision making below. Or, come on over to Facebook and leave your comment there.