Each of us is the hero of our own story. And anyone who slights us is a villain. But what if it’s not so simple?

After all, the person who slights us is the hero in their own story. And they’re just trying to get what they want or need. When we see ourselves only as the hero of our own story, it’s easy to take slights personally.

When someone slights me, they’re slighting Jake LaCaze. Don’t they know who I am? Sometimes, this view is fair. Such as if you’re slighted by a spouse or a family member, someone who has deep rapport with you and knows who you are.

But what about when someone slights you during a job offer, and the salary is lower than you feel you deserve? They’re not slighting you. They’re slighting a job applicant. You’re in a negotiation. And a negotiation is a game. In the same vein as tug-of-war.

If you take it personally, you’re more likely to react emotionally. But if you’ve made a habit of viewing yourself in the third person as much as possible, then you’re ready for this. And you’ve prepared a better response. You’ve prepared the reason why your higher counter offer is actually beneficial to both parties.

Instead of yelling, ‘I deserve more, I’m well qualified!’, maybe you say something more like: ‘In the interviews, you mentioned that you want someone who’s going to stick around for the long term. I’ll be better able to do that if I’m fairly compensated from the beginning. There’s a lot of work to do in improving this operation. Promotions will be hard to come by. I need to have that security from the very start. Because my starting salary affects future raises–which may be little more than cost-of-living raises while we’re creating our better vision–it’s really important that we get this right, now.’

There’s no guarantee this approach will work. (Is there ever such guarantee?) Maybe the person offering the job is set on slighting you in the name of keeping more money. But I think this approach of telling the employer to put their money where their mouth is, is more likely to work than reacting emotionally because you, not a job applicant, were slighted.

A similar view applies when someone cuts you off in traffic. They don’t cut off you–Firstname Lastname–they cut off the car in front of them that just happened to be you. Don’t take it personally, because it wasn’t personal for the reckless driver who’ll be living rent-free in your mind for the rest of the day.

These days, I’m working on seeing myself in the third person, which is, literally, impossible. I can see the world only from my own eyes. In a literal sense, I can almost see myself in the third person by looking at pictures or video of myself. But still, I’m viewing from my own eyes. So everything starts in the first person.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no benefit in trying to see myself in the third person. Sometimes, when bad things happen to us, we get too caught up in the parties involved. I can’t believe Joe slighted me, after all I’ve done for him. Joe did THAT to ME?

But what if you see the situation from a third-person perspective? How would you advise your friend in a similar situation? You’d be more likely to forget names and focus instead on roles. We can be more easily objective when we’re advising other people through their problems. Yet we so often ignore our own best advice when we find ourselves in similar situations.


Because we see the problem in the first person. We can’t remove ourselves from our view of the situation. Our personal attachment taints our judgment, which taints our advice to ourselves, which taints the actions we take.

This concept of seeing ourselves in the third person isn’t as crazy as it may sound. We often talk about seeing things from the other party’s perspective. Putting ourselves in their shoes. The same logic applies here. The major difference is that while putting ourselves in their shoes may open the door for empathy, we’re not stopping there. We’re not giving in to make peace. We’re still moving forward to get what we want. The goal is the same. The strategy and tactics are a bit different. By seeing their perspective and understanding their goals, we’re better prepared to find an answer that serves us both.

As I’ve already said, this approach isn’t guaranteed to work. Maybe you can’t find a working solution. Or maybe the other person just isn’t willing to compromise, in which case you weren’t likely to reach agreement anyway; and maybe you shouldn’t do business with someone who seeks to win only by ensuring you lose. (That’s not a great business relationship, and you’re bound to lose worse in the end.)

But by seeing yourself in the third person, you’re better able to give yourself the best chance of success. And the truth is, that’s as good as it ever gets in life.


‘I’m a Cult Hero’ by The Cure/The Glove/Cult Hero/whoever