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While waiting for my train to arrive today, I thought about American Idol contestants who get criticized by the judges and lash out in return. It made me wonder why people do that. Why do we try to find fault with people who don’t like us? Additionally, some contestants seem to act nice in front of the judges, but then bad mouth them afterwards. This behavior seems rather curious to me as well. Given that they have already been criticized, what is to be gained by criticizing the other person in return?

Let’s examine the contestants’ motivations. It would appear that when the contestants sing in front of the judges, they are looking for a feeling of approval and acceptance. Especially considering the age of these contestants, they probably have not been performing for long and would like veterans of the trade to tell them that they have a chance. However, when these veterans tell them that they have absolutely no chance, that fantasy is shattered. Here are a few possible reasons for these outbursts:

- The contestants feel very angry, mostly because the judges did not act in that way in their fantasy. As a result, their fantasy is shattered, with the actions of the judges as a direct cause. Therefore, the contestant condemns the judges for hurting them. The fact that the contestants react so strongly indicates that they probably hadn’t planned for the possibility of such a reaction from the judges. This is not unlike a dating situation where you fall in love with a person you imagined and get mad because the real person comes along and shatters that fantasy.

- Partially, the judges were only able to shatter their “superstar” dream because the contestants respect their opinions. Criticizing the judges indicates a change in the contestants’ respect for the judges, making their words less meaningful. It’s probably a defensive mechanism to preserve their fantasy world. Instead of trying to get the judges’ approval, the contestants try to get other people’s approval and then “gang up” on the judges.

- As for the people who act nice in front of the judges but then criticize them behind their back, it’s probably out of a lack of confidence in being able to say it directly to them.

Of course, I am well aware that I seem to be assigning negative motivations to the contestants. After all, they were just criticized on national TV! However, as far as I can tell, these seem like the most likely explanations.

It’s very interesting that the reactions of people can be an indicator of who they are. After all, would you react if I told you, “You’re very human”? People ignore things they don’t care about (since that’s what not caring about it means!) and only react strongly to things they care about! This seems like such an obvious statement, but its full meaning didn’t hit me until now.

It means that when people are yelling and screaming, the first question you should ask is, “What are they reacting to so negatively about?” It’s very easy to get caught up in the emotion and start arguing and fighting. However, the person’s anger may have absolutely nothing to do with you and is more a sign of his or her own internal struggles. The classic case of this is if a very emotional woman starts yelling at you during PMS. That’s more a symptom of her pain rather than anything you did!

I have often found that if I am angry or frustrated, that feeling goes away once I understand the other person’s point of view! Most of the time, it has nothing to do with me, or the two people just didn’t understand each other correctly! It takes great inner security to be able to not take things personally, and try to perceive them from the other person’s point of view. Now that sounds like what being “cool” is all about!

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