Maya Angelou’s Myth
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
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Thank you! I really appreciate you all taking on this often-cited quote.
Yeah, as much as I admire her, this quote has always bothered me.
You misunderstand the quote. Ms. Angelou was referring to the “impression” taken away from a person’s overall comportment and disposition. Though she uses the word “feel,” she is relating how we evaluate interpersonal relationships, especially fleeting ones, based on relatability, sincerity and attitude. The quote’s intention is to school us on being amicable in our interactions. Not to justify the way a person made us feel in the moment. Ms. Angelou certainly understood and espoused the idea that feelings may be felt in the moment but that they should be transient and not inform our emotions and sense of self beyond immediate reflection.
I hope this clarifies any prior misapprehension.
Thanks for your comment, Marcos. Indeed, Ms. Angelou was referring to our impression. However, the word “feel” isn’t the real issue. The issue is “made them.” I don’t believe anyone can make another person feel a certain way. If I re-wrote her quote, it would say, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget they felt around you.”
I like the phase; it resonates with the heart. But, as you have indicated, it gets into trouble by passing off accountability. Pascal said, “The heart knows reason that reason does not know.” It’d be interesting to see how Angelou and Pascal would get along. 🙂
I don’t think the quote is perpetuating a myth or that it is incompatible with the second. A comittment to being responsible for my own feelings is exactly that, a comittment. I will still have feelings and I will still blame others for them. My comittment is that when I recognise that I am blaming something external for a feeling I will exercise the ‘muscle’ to take responsibility for the feeling. The key word in the first quote is ‘them’. It is the nature of the human machine to store memories of affects as feelings, we all do it all the time. By taking responsibility we are consciously thinking about the affects and giving ourselves more empowering and nuanced feelings to associate with them. This is not intuitive and most people that we encounter will not share our comittment. Once we have assumed responsibility for our feelings we open the choice for ourselves to cmmunicate with others about theirs in a way that may help them empower themselves. What Mrs. Angelou is saying is that whatever the outcome what will be remembered is the feeling.
I really appreciate your thoughtful comment, Steve. And for reminding us how important it is to pick ourselves up when we slip. I especially appreciate your rewording of Angelou’s quote emphasize personal ownership of feelings.