One of my best and worst quality is the ability to play devil’s advocate. It’s a blessing and a curse to see someone else’s perspective. After all, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is something taught to us early on to teach empathy. Being empathetic and trying to understand people’s experiences, lives, and point of view is a gift on its own. However, it can also be your biggest downfall.
In life, we are taught to be understanding and empathetic to those around us. You never know what someone is going through in their personal lives. We are taught to give people the benefit of the doubt, that deep down everyone’s a good person, and we should always be kind. It’s almost ironic that I say my gift is putting myself in other people’s shoes because I can be pretty black or white sometimes. Depending on the topic or issue at hand, I can give a fuck about your opinion, life position, or what you’re feeling. But there’s a difference between empathizing with someone and absorbing their emotions, versus understanding their reality and where they’re coming from. I feel like I would get the two confused in the past, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your own personal feelings out of it. You can see someone’s side but not agree with it, you can understand why someone acts the way they do but not like it, you can be sympathetic towards someone’s lifestyle and upbringing but want no part of it. There’s a difference.
I feel like this culture is all about canceling people and cutting people off. At times, these drastic measures are necessary for your own peace of mind. Don’t get it twisted, I am a firm believer of maintaining your inner peace and moving on from people or situations that disrupts that peace. But I will say that social media glorifies cutting people off in a very negative and hostile way. You can cut someone off and not fuck with them anymore without any drama. It’s not the act of cutting off that is negative, but how you do it… Yo. That’s me playing devil’s advocate again…. But I guess that proves my point…. I always try to see both sides.
I say that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a skill, only because it’s usually when someone does you wrong that you have to try to see their side. From experience, I would get frustrated with myself for trying to see other people’s side when it was at my expense. I would take it as a sign of weakness, and I would teeter totter back and forth wondering if I should be a bad bitch that pop’s off on someone, or understand why a situation happened and just take the higher road. I hated the thought of knowing that some people could interpret that as being weak and passive. Just the thought of someone thinking I am backing down irked my soul.
I would have mixed feelings about trying to sympathize and put myself in others’ shoes who have wronged me because I felt like it made me look spineless. I didn’t want to give off the impression that I condone any behavior that had me fucked up. I’ve learned from experience that there are times when you show sympathy for others and they take advantage of that sympathy to manipulate you or control a situation. It’s not a good feeling when you’re putting your ego and pride aside to attempt to empathize with others and have that be thrown back in your face. It can have the opposite effect – where you end up not wanting to be open to someone else’s perspective but your own going forward.
Sometimes I still struggle with playing devil’s advocate for people or situations that are to my detriment. And I don’t think that I’m better than anyone else for trying to “take the higher road” in certain scenarios, I just know that it’s a sign of maturity and growth. It gets to a point where you understand their truth, but you don’t agree with it, and there’s nothing you can really do but just take a mental note and move on. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that some won’t care if you’re trying to see their point of view. You can understand all you want but you can’t control how others act, react, or choose to view you.
What can get frustrating is when you’re trying really hard to be understanding with others, give people the benefit of the doubt, and rationalize why others act the way they do – but you don’t feel like that same effort is made with you. Realizing that only you are in control of your own narrative and can’t convince others to see your truth unless they want to can be a very hurtful thing to realize. You can’t force others to try to see your point of view. You can only control what perspectives you choose or choose not to acknowledge.
My reputation at work and in my personal life is to play devil’s advocate – not to be an annoying asshole, but because I always try to rationalize situations. Regardless of my relationship to you, whether you are my best friend, family member, or partner, I will give my honest advice and opinions. Sometimes people don’t like it, but I refuse to be the friend that just agrees with everything you say just because I know you. That’s not what being a good friend is.
What I love and admire about my friend group is the fact that they’ll always give me their honest advice. They have no problem playing devil’s advocate and holding me accountable for my own actions. We don’t always agree with each other, but it’s important to hear other perspectives. Usually people only want to hear what you have to say only if you’re agreeing with them. But that’s how you get stuck in one-sided thinking. Get friends that play devil’s advocate when you vent to them – those are the real friends.
Playing devil’s advocate is necessary when you’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. But don’t ever let empathizing with others be at your own expense. Know when seeing someone’s side is to your detriment. Create those boundaries where you can see someone else’s perspective while still putting yourself in an emotional position where you don’t end up taking the L.