The other day I popped my head into a faculty member’s office to talk with them about their current struggles with some students. The faculty member mentioned one student who was being needy and dramatic and problematic, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if they just acted like a Reasonable Fucking Human Being?” The faculty member laughed and loved that term, because it summarizes so many important but ineffable qualities.
I can’t remember which of my friends coined this term, but it has been one of the most useful terms in my life: Reasonable Fucking Human Being (RFHB). This is not “an amazing person” or “an incompetent asshat.” It is not “Spock-like emotionlessness” or “perfect in every way.” This is the baseline level at which people should be functioning. It is not a high standard. Yet, it is amazing how often people who should know better do not meet this simple qualification.
To be an RFHB, you need to not be dramatic. If you can’t avoid being dramatic, you at least need to be able to calm down and speak rationally. You need to have expectations which are fair and reasonable. You need to not expect people to read your mind. You need to treat people with a basic level of respect, because they are also soft squishy smart monkeys trying to stimulate dopamine activity on a rocky ball hurtling through the cosmos.
To be an RFHB, you can be emotional, but you need to acknowledge your emotionality. You need to listen. You need to not interrupt. If you do interrupt someone, you need to be aware of that and apologize. You need to present solutions and not just gripe, unless all you want is sympathy, in which case you should make that clear. You need to think about the future and be aware of the consequences of your decisions.
To be an RFHB, you need to be compassionate. You need to care at least a little about your fellow human beings. You need to try to minimize suffering- not just starving children in third world countries, but with the words you use and how you deal with the people around you. You need to trust and accept the trust that progressively builds as you interact with others. You need to understand the rules and, if you don’t accept them, be willing to accept the consequences of breaking them.
To be an RFHB, you need to look out for the ‘little guy’. You need to support individuals against the oppression of the majority. You need to understand privilege and not expect others to do things the way you do them. You need to understand the relationship between work, effort, and outcome. You need to be humble and accept responsibility for your actions and work to improve as a person.
In a word: just be cool. OK, that’s three words. It seems really really simple to me. Just be… reasonable. That’s it. That’s the baseline. From there, you can work on being a zero.