Dealing with Human Nature

Posted on December 4, 2014 by Robert Ringer


It’s often been said that business would be easy if you didn’t have to deal with people. How true. But, realistically speaking, you can’t expect to achieve your goals without interacting with, and receiving the help and cooperation of, other people.

If you start a business, you need to deal with employees, suppliers, customers, regulatory agencies, and many other kinds of people. If you work for someone, you have no choice but to interact with your boss, co-workers, support staff, and anyone and everyone else directly or indirectly related to your job.

This is true in every area of life. Whether you play sports (even so-called individual sports), get married and raise a family, or travel the world, people are an integral part of almost everything you do.

Even if you were to attempt to live a Thoreau-type life in the wilderness — a prospect that sounds rather boring — you still would find the need to talk to people from time to time. Food and medical care are two obvious reasons why.

That being the case, I thought it would be helpful to review some of the more important realities of human nature.



We’ve heard since childhood that no one is perfect, and experience repeatedly confirms the truth in this maxim. We learn this early on when we witness a coach swearing, a teacher punishing us for something we didn’t do, or a parent not keeping his word.

Nevertheless, from time to time we tend to get so high on someone that we set ourselves up for disappointment. Such a disappointment often stems from relying too much on the other person. The more you depend on someone, the more likely you are to bring his imperfection to the surface. For this reason alone, striving to be a self-reliant individual can go a long way toward helping you avoid to bringing out the worst in people.



All people are programmed at birth to do what they believe is in their best interest. To the extent you expect people to act altruistically, you invite unnecessary problems into your life.

It is folly to believe you have an automatic right to someone’s love, friendship, or respect. All these, and more, must be earned. If you choose to act contrary to this basic principle of human nature, the result is likely to be frustration and disappointment. Never forget that the key to getting what you want in life is to focus on actions that create value for others.


Resistance to Change

People rarely change their personalities or moral structures. Anyone can put on an act for a while, but ultimately the truth will become evident to those who know him. It’s important to understand this, because we sometimes go along with questionable people in the hopes that they will change their ways.

Unfortunately, it rarely happens, which is why it’s wise to select business associates, friends, and, most important of all, spouses on the basis of common values. Opposites may attract, but they tend to end up strangling each other. For example, a marriage between two people with conflicting ideologies — i.e., fundamental doctrine that guides their actions — is a perfect example of such a contentious mismatch.


Situational Ethics

Don’t expect even the most ethical people to live up to your moral expectations of them 100 percent of the time. All people, at one time or another, deviate from their moral beliefs; i.e., they are sometimes hypocritical.

More often than not, the cause is a desire for instant gratification. Since people are imperfect, you should not be shocked when an otherwise ethical, upstanding friend or acquaintance occasionally engages in situational ethics.

The practice of situational ethics, however, is unacceptable when it becomes a way of life for someone who is in your life. If I can never be certain of what a person’s ethical stance is going to be from one moment to the next, I’m likely to spend way too much time thinking about it. Worse, there is an ongoing danger that he might cause me harm whenever I make an assumption about how he’s going to handle a given situation.


Money and Power

Like it or not, most people are impressed by money and power — especially those who claim otherwise. Victor Hugo made an astute observation about this reality of human nature when he observed, “Prosperity supposes capacity. Win in the lottery and you are an able man.”

This reality constantly tests your character. It’s also contagious, so you can easily pick it up from others. The corollary to this trait is that when people think you’re broke and powerless, they treat you with indifference, at best; more likely, however, you can count on outright disdain.


Susceptibility to the Three Fs

Most people, regardless of their basic personalities, have the potential to become very ugly when any of the three Fs — fame, fortune, and family — are at stake. Stories of people trampling one another to get to the top of the entertainment ladder are legendary, and anyone with the slightest business experience has witnessed the same kind of ugliness surface when large sums of money are at stake.

Family, however, brings out the most neurotic, ugly behavior of all. This is especially true of parents when they believe their children are being given a raw deal or are in some way being threatened.

If you’ve had any experience coaching Little League baseball or any other kind of youth sport, you know what I’m talking about. A youth coach normally explains to team parents at the start of the season that (1) winning is not important, (2) fun and learning are the team’s primary objectives, (3) some children will play more than others, but everyone will play the minimum amount of time required by league rules, and (4) parents should set an example for their children when it comes to good sportsmanship.

All parents assure the coach that they completely understand and agree with everything he has told them, and most of them probably mean it when they give such assurances. In fact, the parents are friendly, gracious, and completely supportive of the coach — the epitome of goodwill — until the first game of the season, at which time they begin acting like werewolves in the glow of a full moon.


Obviously, there are an infinite number of human traits to consider when dealing with others, but I find the ones I’ve listed above to be of special importance to me when interacting with others. I think you’ll find it to be a worthwhile project to make up your own list of human traits that you’ve observed over the years and refer to it often to keep you on your toes when it comes to human relations.

The important thing is to accept the reality that human nature is what it is, thus if you try to delude yourself about it, bad things tend to happen.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

18 responses to “Dealing with Human Nature”

  1. Robby Bonfire says:

    People, in general, can be trusted – where money, valuables and property are not involved. People, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, cannot be trusted where money, valuables and property are up for the bidding or the taking. This is why family members have no qualms about poisoning that rich uncle to inherit the estate.

    You start dealing with friends and family in a financial context, you can expect to experience a reduction in viable friendship and family relationships.

    • Gary Waltrip says:

      Another example is when a rich relative dies. The survivors will fight like cats and dogs to get a larger portion of the estate, by challenging the will or attempting to get others to surrender their share.

      • Liz says:

        I was shocked after a relative died intestate and all the heirs were in complete agreement over the handling of the estate but one of their spouses got mad about the way things were decided. It was a little sickening, as there was not much to quibble over — a small house, a couple of cars and some non descript personal belongings — and it was really none of their business.

  2. words2influence says:

    The real deal in human interaction is to 'always' strive for the win/win situation… keeps everyone's claws retracted!!

  3. Scott theczech says:

    When our boys were little league ages I was asked to coach a team. I accepted on three conditions: 1) that no one coaches their own child, 2) no drafting of players; all are chosen by lottery and 3) everyone practices and plays in equal measure as much as possible. You would have thought I was asking them to burn the original manuscript of the Mayflower Compact! My conditions were not met…I didn't coach. Hmm..human nature. What a marvel.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      Speaking as someone who has had far too much experience in this area, I applaud your stance. The idea of the games not revolving around the best jocks is anathema to their parents.

  4. Diane Young says:

    Power, greed and corruption have always been the Big Three. People always seem innocent as lambs til you
    get too close to their dirty little secrets.

  5. RealitySeeker says:

    "Even if you were to attempt to live a Thoreau-type life in the wilderness — a prospect that sounds rather boring — you still would find the need to talk to people from time to time."

    That the nature of humans leads them by their collectivist nose-rings to actually feel solitude "boring" is why Thoreau was such an exceptionally rare bird.

    Flying in the rarefied air, solo, undistracted by and unencumbered from the languor and quacking of the flock, Thoreau sojourned to a fountainhead unreachable by collaboration. And yet we are all the better off for it.

    The clarity of thought which can only be found in solitude is solitude's greatest gift to the few who are its true companions.

    During which time I flew solo I did rather enjoy nature the way in which it is best experienced, viz., a lone human celebrating life among the hues of seemingly endless, green-tree leaves, undulating from keen air flowing everywhere, until the forest at once ends and then begins an ocean of blooming meadows abuzz with life absent anybody but me. Spring matured into glorious summer which then yielded to fall until at one point winter dominated the land with 15ft of snow punctuated by 25 ft snow drifts. ………

    On the other hand, big city life with all of its modern conveniences and intricate culture, has obvious advantages, and so does travelling to some of the most densely populated and culturally rich regions of the world. This means that the world traveler must offer others a value-for-value transaction. Thus, rubbing elbows from time to time is unavoidable. Mostly, the soloist is harassed not by everyday people but by the collectivist government and its army of interminable bureaucrats. These governmental, destructive and cartel-type forces pose the greatest threat to all life on earth as they plot and pit country against country.

  6. Since 05, I wrote 10 book manuscripts, 1 million words… yes, I brag… ALL done in solitude. Without a cell phone. But, from time to time I NEEDED to "exteriorize" as I termed it. To get outside of myself and interact. How best to interact? Be interested in the other person and his/her situation, not mememe what I do and did. People love you better when I interest yourself in their life, in the Right Way, of course. Knowing when to be Inner and when to be Outer gives balance in one's life. To be introverted when it is time, extroverted when the social need arises. All decision require Right Judgment. But, how many human beings know themselves that well? When I am disappointed in the general Human Condition, I say "Humanity is one big pile of feces", but when in a better mood and mode, I cut people slack… up to a point and to a degree. It is too bad current Governments aren't more close and right thinking, and behave in accord with known human virtues.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      You bring up an important point about being interested in others (in the RIght Way), as most folks are so consumed by their own tech devices, needs, wants, etc. that it is almost like they are the only one in the world. I love socializing, but I am very disciplined about carving out lots of time for myself – to think, reflect, and just be silent and take in the universe. Governments by definition are evil because they are based on theft and coercion, and attract the same element as all forms of crime do – and this is why voting for a change of personnel, while retaining govt., is useless. Voluntary choices, contracts – a free market – is the ONLY moral way. And then, we all have to realize that others have a different view of things, and as Robt. says, act in their own interest, which may be at odds with our own.

  7. John E. Gabor says:

    Great article. The worst managers and supervisors I've known didn't think they needed to earn the respect of their people and didn't think they needed leadership skills training.

  8. Guest says:

    My brother was doing good when he volunteered to coach Little League baseball. He removed himself when coaching decisions influenced the parent's views of his business.

  9. william says:

    another brilliant observation on human nature robert. i think many interpersonal and business troubles could be avoided if people would learn to expect others to act in accordance with human nature, instead of expecting them to live up to some unnatural, man-made ideal. it amazes me how frequently people are shocked that others behave in perfectly predictable ways. you illustrate this well in "winning through intimidation" when you basically expect the people you are dealing with will try to rip you off, and in so expecting you prepare yourself for this inevitability. we should also expect to be lied to in our interpersonal relationships so we will not be so devastated when it happens.

  10. cashcontrol says:

    I would weight to rhyme sagacious the orchard fix here along I stronghold that your points are famous.

  11. Alin Tepes says:

    The worst managers and supervisors I've known didn't think they needed to earn the respect of their people and didn't think they needed leadership skills training.

  12. Its kind of frustrating, seeing people abandon their humanity and give up to evil. We human, come from the same father. But we keep fighting each other, for a foolish reason. Save our child future by keep us human

  13. rwthrthre says:

    Wow. How ugly, pathetic and miserable egoistic is a man which was portrayed in this text. This is astounding in its unrelenting solipsistic egoism. Nothing else matters in this world, other than yourself and your worthless ego. This is despicable. There is no honor in this and it even looks like there is no real attempt at anything better than our most base animalistic nature.

    Fuck you and your capitalistic cronies, dear author. You are worthless human being who doesn't even try to make this world a better place. You preach exactly the sickness that has brought us here; unlimited, selfish egoistical materialism. You and your kind belong to worst depths of hell.