Getting Along With Difficult People: Making Peace in Every Relationship
Accept People for Who They Are
When I was younger, I used to hate my mother’s materialism. I always had a naturally idealistic personality as a child. Growing up poor didn’t make me want more things, but made me realize I could be happy with less in my life. I saw people who were “better off” than me financially, but they didn’t seem much happier with their lives. Maybe they were more comfortable in some ways, but the rich kids in my classes were some of the more troubled kids in school. They had the leisure to ignore their lessons, party with drinking and drugs, and complain that their parents bought them things, but didn’t give them love. I didn’t have the luxury of being irresponsible or falling apart when I was a teenager. I had a younger brother to take care of, and I knew school was my only salvation from a life of poverty. My father was an alcoholic so drinking held no glamour or mystery for me. I saw the dark and sad side of everything in life from an early age so I had no illusions about any of it.
I understand now why my mother wanted to have so many nice things. She was an immigrant to this country, worked three jobs at one point to simply put food on the table and a roof overhead, and had the American Dream of someday owning a home filled with nice belongings. Given my slightly gypsical nature, I looked down on that desire in her when I was younger. It took me losing everything I had as an adult to gain perspective on what I had once thought a negative quality in my mother. I worked really hard to make something of myself and had a great future lined up. Then I went through a divorce and hit some unexpected hard times as a result. I lost a great opportunity right at the downturn of the economy and was affected by the recession like everyone else. I can tell you it’s harder to go from being “rich” to poor than it is to go from being poor to rich. I didn’t realize how easily I took for granted my more comfortable lifestyle. You always think that because you were once poor that you will never forget what poverty feels like, but you do forget after awhile. It’s a rude awakening all of a sudden to no longer have basic health insurance or be able to afford your monthly facials and hair appointments. You go from feeling like you matter in the world to feeling like you are nothing at all. People without money become invisible.
For me, the positive takeaway from being poor as an adult was gaining an appreciation for material comforts and subsequently gaining a better understanding of my own mother. I’ll admit in the past I used to be kind of judgmental of her desire for nice things. I thought it spoke less of her as a person, and I saw it as greed. Why spend $100 on a purse when you could get a cheaper version and use the rest of the money to feed the hungry? I really thought that way. Now I understand how wrong it was of me to be so extreme in my giving nature. If she was a bit materialistic to a fault, then I was generous to a fault as well. I needed to learn some balance in my life. Gaining a different perspective helped me to accept my mother for who she is. Instead of looking at her desire for some expensive possession as a negative quality in her that should be changed, I began to realize the reason she wanted some nice things was because she worked so hard when she was younger and never had them. It was her dream. And we all dream of different things. We all have different values. It’s not fair to blindly judge other people by the standards we keep, expecting them to become more like us in order for us to like them.
Conditional Love Isn’t Love At All
Real love is when you accept people for who they are and love them with their perceived flaws. You may not understand them, you may not agree with them, but once you accept them, you will gain a better insight into what makes them who they are and also learn how to get along with them in a way that makes them feel loved by you. Most of the time we tend to give people what WE need, not what they need. We give to others what we wish others were giving to us. If you want to know what other people in your life value, look at what they give you. My mother values money and nice things so that’s what she always gives to the people she loves. I value kindness, compliments, and personalized gifts that say “I took the time to know you” so that’s what I tend to give to those I love most. If you want to be a better friend or lover, you have to learn to give to others WHAT THEY NEED instead of just what you want to give them. I’ve learned to give my mother money as a gift instead of some thoughtful present because she’s a more practical person than me and that’s what she values. I’ve also learned to accept the practical gifts she gives me and understand it’s her imperfect way of saying “I love you.”
Find Something in Common
We live in a world full of differences. Look around you. There are as many different kinds of people and ways to be in this world as there are stars in the sky. Each person is a world of their own with a unique set of beliefs, experiences, and opinions. It’s so much easier to find people who are different from us than the ones who are the same. The greatest problem in humanity isn’t that we are all so different, but that we all seem to individually believe we are the only one who got it right. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. We are all just a little bit right and a little bit wrong about everything. A little humility goes a long way in finding common ground.
If you want to get along with other people, you have to be committed to the cause of commonality. You have to be willing to stop defending every idea you have as right and let other people have an opinion that’s different from yours. Respect people who are different from you while also saying the truth of what you think and feel. As with all things in life, it’s a balance you have to find. The knee-jerk reaction when someone disagrees with us is to defend what we believe and convince the other person they are somehow wrong to think differently than us. Feeling threatened by a difference of opinion, we end up arguing and fighting. I understand that thoughts are powerful because they fuel our actions. However, we should never feel threatened by someone else’s viewpoint. We don’t have to give our power to them by allowing the differences to diminish us. Instead, we can say live and let live. You can still like somebody even if you disagree with them. It’s entirely possible. I do it all the time.
I had a good friend once who was a staunchly conservative Republican. Though I don’t affiliate myself with any political parties, I’d say I err on the side of being a bit liberal at times. He would go on and on and on sometimes about political topics and most of what he said I didn’t agree with. However, it wasn’t important to me to argue with him about it. If he asked my opinion, I gave it. If he didn’t like it, I simply told him I’d rather not discuss that topic and asked if we could talk about something else that we both enjoyed and had an interest in. He was a great person, a loyal friend, and we had a lot of fun together when we hung out so it wasn’t worth it to me to make the differences in political opinions an issue of divisiveness. We both loved action movies so we spent the majority of our time together either seeing those films or telling jokes. I made the effort to get along with him though we were very different in many ways, and I enjoyed his friendship for many years as a result.
It’s Not Them, It’s You
Nobody’s perfect. The mistake we make in our relationships, whether friendship or romance, is we expect one person to fulfill ALL our needs and agree with us on EVERY topic. We feel offended if the person isn’t just like us or doing everything we expect them to do in just the way we want them to do it. Well, I hate to say it, but the problem isn’t them. The problem is you.
It’s very selfish and narcissistic to only love those who remind us of ourselves. That’s not a healthy quality by any means. The best people in this world are the ones who have friends from all walks of life, can get along with anyone, and are open to understanding new perspectives. You can’t make peace without understanding. You can’t have understanding if you are so uncomfortable with anyone who isn’t exactly like you. I love all kinds of people. Every religion. Every color. Every one different from myself. I learn the most about my own nature through those who see the world differently than I do. Sometimes I learn where I stand on issues when I encounter a difference of opinion. Sometimes I learn where I’m wrong on issues when I encounter a difference of opinion. I always learn the value of greater tolerance and love when I encounter a difference of opinion. Regardless of what I learn, I always find that a difference of opinion is a positive experience which sharpens and hones my own humanity.
If we want to get along with one another, we have to accept the fact that no one can fulfill all our needs. Some may come close to it, but you have to allow them their differences and shortcomings if you are to love them in return. More often than not, people will rise to the occasion and try to be what you need, but having an exacting heart and rigidly expecting your loved ones to jump through every hoop perfectly for you will eventually drive everyone you love away. Instead, be grateful for what a person can do for you in a relationship and accept what they cannot. My mother is incapable of emotionally nurturing me. I could try to give you the reasons why, but that isn’t the point of my bringing it up. It’s just a fact of her existence and our relationship. Instead of being disappointed with her as a mother, I’ve learned to accept that about her and we have a decent relationship. I get my emotional nurturing and support from other relationships in my life, and I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. It’s a matter of perspective. If I were to expect my mother to be emotionally caring toward me, we probably wouldn’t have much of a relationship. However, since I accept that shortcoming in her as a flawed human being, I am actually able to have gratitude for the more practical aspects of our relationship and what her presence adds to my life. In a perfect world, I’d have a mother as naturally nurturing as I am. Heck, in a perfect world I would have been raised by the Huxtables. But this isn’t a perfect world, is it? We all have good, better, and best and bad, worse, and worst people in our lives. It’s up to you to decide who you want to get along with and how you want to get along with them.
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© 2013 maramerce