There’s a debate regarding what education is for: is it to prepare students for work or is it to stimulate the soul? But one of the key components I feel is missing is that we go to school to learn to get along with others. We, then, continue to play nice when we enter the workplace. Although, we’re not usually taught how to get along with diverse characters, right? There’s a lot of trial and error. So here are some things I’ve learned along the way. I hope you share your experiences, too.

Don’t take things so seriously.

Malasadas food truck, Oahu
Have a donut instead…[Waikele, Hawaii, 2015]
This is probably the one that I need to remember most. There have been plenty of times in my life when whatever conflict, imagined or real, was happening in my little universe, took over my thoughts and made me unhappy. When I was a Waldorf teacher, I was tossed into a hyper-critical and negative workplace. I only figured out how to navigate those choppy waters after I had let go of what others thought of me.

And long after I had left the school, I started to realize how much the parents and faculty sweated over the little stuff. If it’s possible, I try to give myself a perspective check regarding whatever or whoever is stressing me out. Sometimes you need an escape plan, but normally, the reminder that this isn’t so life or death usually helps me to move on.

Sometimes you need a little patience.

Life is sweet, enjoy every bite. [Siem Reap, 2017]
When my brother married his white-hot lover many years ago, I remember struggling to find common ground. She’s 10 years younger than me. I’m not a mother. We simply didn’t have much to talk about. Interactions between us were awkward, even when we traveled together as a family.

I decided that was just the way it was going to be, but then things started to change. Years went by, and the conversations got easier. She became a teacher, traveled extensively, and, well, we both got older. Sometimes I think you need to give a relationship some time and space. It’s not as if we are super close, but I feel closer to her than I ever have.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I could eat the WHOLE thing, or I could exercise some self-control. [Chiang Rai, 2014]
We have a tendency to think in extremes, opposites, and dualities. I have to remind myself that every encounter does not have to be a love connection. I also believe that we don’t give people a chance because of quick judgments. Things are said, and things are misinterpreted. We live in a me first, two-second tweets, and I don’t have time for this world.

Some folks are also slow to know. I feel that way about myself even though I openly blog. There’s actually a lot I don’t share. I try to be sensitive to complaining, oversharing, and the fact that I’m a guest in a foreign country.

The thing about being an expat is you come in contact with people who you normally would have never met, let alone be friends with. That sounds harsh, but actually, it can be a built-in “stretch yourself” situation that forces you to get talking. In the past, I would be disappointed over a seemingly so-so connection, but now I feel like it’s okay. Hollywood is not reality.

Politics: pick your battles and prepare to be misunderstood.

Asian American woman drinking beer
I’m gonna need a strong drink (or two or three). [Chiang Mai, 2013]
When it comes to the powder keg world of American politics, I generally don’t get into it with my friends or colleagues. I deleted my Twitter account ages ago. I don’t leave scathing or baiting remarks on websites. My partner, on the other hand, used to go toe-to-toe all over the web because he was so angry over injustices and one-sided reporting.

Now, he’s completely done a 180 and walked away from it because he learned, in the end, it wasn’t worth wasting his time and effort. Since we live together, it was frustrating to go through this with him, but it reinforced some things for me.

  • Many people want to be heard and don’t necessarily want to listen. We’re not really versed in the art of debate. I’ve definitely had heated discussions at work, where we both ended in a ‘truce’ which is the best you can hope for in these divisive times. It’s a rare bird that wants you to change or challenge their thoughts.
  • People also have a tendency to echo whatever social media accounts or news sources they follow. Most folks do not read both or all sides of the story. It’s too much work, and few people have that kind of passion, free time, and open-mindedness for the complicated truth.
  • We’re connected via the internet, but entrenched in tribal warfare. Conflict is what gets clicks.
  • Lastly, I believe the positive change that we crave is not going to originate from politics. I’m also waiting for the mental madness to subside because the way things have been going is not sustainable. I think it helps to be forward thinking, like literally casting your mind towards the future, and contemplate various situations. Usually, we go dark, but often in our own worlds, the worst case scenario doesn’t happen.

Be kind to others and yourself.

It all comes full-circle, back to donuts…[Chiang Mai, 2014]
This code of conduct has served me well. I’ve had ex-boyfriends (and friends) apologize to me years after we’ve broken up. You really can’t go wrong with this one. Even if you regretted being too nice or wished you had hindsight, feeling this way is far better than lamenting over being too mean.

There was a guy I was interested in, and he didn’t feel the same way about me. But I guess he liked the attention, so he kept me around. And I was an idiot for being his lapdog. There were many times I should have walked away, but for the sake of this not becoming a novel, I won’t get into the embarrassing gory details. It wasn’t until he created the distance that we stopped seeing each other, but one of his friends took a liking to me, so we started hanging out.

Well, as you can imagine, dickhead didn’t like it. Anyway, I won’t tell you the rest of it, hahaha, but the point of the story is this. The middle guy told me that his “friend” used to say bad things about me, but that I never said bad things about dickhead. Trust me, I had plenty of ammo, but I tried to be fair. So our characters were revealed to middle man, and made him question who the bad one really was, you know? I think you do. Don’t be a dick.

How do you relate to people different than you?

29 replies on “How do you relate to people different than you?

  1. So many things to say — here is the short version to answer your question: I always try to find something interesting about the other person (be it their passion, interesting point of view, opinions, origin, etc.) I came with a base that almost everyone has something interesting I can learn/know about. Saying that if I don’t feel it (a bad vibe, someone with no personality, just a mean person) I dont even bother to be nice to them. I just ignore them as much as possible as if we don’t exist in the same world)

    Ps. I really like how you pointed out that being an expat means that u r just a guest in that country.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes to finding a common interest/s! It’s true and so much fun when you discover that you share a passion or even when you realize you’ve been in the same places, same year, etc. But it’s even fun to argue the opposite regarding tastes in music or something like that.

      If a person is just mean, then yeah, I ignore them, too. If it’s possible, I cut them out because if we’ve learned anything, it’s getting toxic ppl out of your life!

      For the most part though, folks are much more layered and complex. Someone can be generous person, but an absolute shithead to work with.

      P.S.S. Yeahhhh, well, I don’t feel welcomed sometimes. My relationship with Thailand is complicated 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An important question that comes up less and less due to social media giving us more of the things we like. Hanlons razor come up in a podcast I was listening to the other day:
    “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” In other words assume people are acting in good faith and not out to get you.,.its good advice….and like you say ‘be patient and kind’..,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point re: social media, and I’d like to add that because we don’t have as many face to face encounters, we’ve lost the ability to ‘read’ social cues, and how to relate to ppl in general.

      It sounds like an exaggeration, and hopefully it is, but do remember the time before smartphones when we used to interact much more.

      With the phone between us, I don’t have to try as much, or at all.

      GREAT quote.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People are loosing the ability to read cues you’re right. Reading a book on addictive tech at the moment and even three days away from tech in a camp improved kids emotional facial recognition (there’s a famous computer test which I forget the name of) by about 30%….this is all so new we don’t really know how deep the damage is running!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know. I try very hard to monitor my use, but kids? I was talking with someone in the States that said all of her kids homework is done online. Yikes.


      3. Yeah adults struggle bad enough as it is….kids are completely unprepared to deal with these highly addictive technologies……there’s push back coming though (I think!)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this! I think there should be classes on “how to get along with people you fundamentally disagree with,” because it is possible, despite what current Twitter wars would have us think.
    I was in debate in high school, and I loved it because it was a chance to prove how smart I was. By tearing others down. That was the whole point. Listen for the flaws in their argument so you can stick a knife in them. How sick is that? Once I was older I realized how much I hated it and walked away, learning to open up my mind and heart to other sides of the story at the same time. But too many people still listen with intent to kill, right? Kindness is the key, and listening with intent to understand.
    Oh, and I think, as writers, we’re pretty good at understanding other people, and if we’re not, it shows up in our characters. Flat villains because the writer can’t get in their head and understand why someone would act that way. But if you can, suddenly you see that people are just people, and are rarely the villains in their own mind. Like in Ender’s Game, once you understand the enemy fully, you come to love them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You all were involved in some evil debate, yo. When I’ve taught my students, we try to listen so we can come up with a thoughtful response. There’s actually a lot of evidence that shows how positive debate can be.

      However, I can see how it could become quite competitive. And you are SO right about ‘listening with intent to kill’. I’ve certainly been in situations like that.

      Good writers should definitely be able to create complex villains. 😛 Ender’s Game is on my reading list, but yeah, when we can see the other side, like deep inside, it can be an awakening experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Man, I love your posts… so thought provoking!
    I think the first thing I have to tell myself is: don’t judge a book by its cover. I can be quite judgmental sometimes and I think implicit bias always creeps into my first impression. There are moments I have to take a step back and shift my frame of my mind.
    Your advice on patience is really key. Sometimes it can take a few meetings to really get to know someone. I always try to give people a second (or even third) chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve gotten better about being ‘judgy’ probably because my partner is way worse than me so I have to be the other side of the coin. That being said, I do get REAL judgy when I see an outfit that I think is hilarious. Hello, Asia. So much to work with here. I try to keep my humor about me tho, like “girl, oh, girl, what are you wearing?” 😛


  5. These are great suggestions on what to do being around people who are different from you. Agree with having patience as not everyone will get each other right away. When it comes to subjects like politics, best to agree to disagree. For me, I find I am very different from others in terms of how I choose to work and really live my life (introvert in an extroverted world around extroverted people, and me just being all round weird :P). I don’t think there is a need to relate or connect to others unless you have reason too. As you mentioned in one of your comments earlier, sometimes finding common interests help. For me, I don’t always connect with people with common interests; usually I feel I connect with them with their personality – say same mannerisms and behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. I’m drawn to quiet people. I always have been, maybe I recognize something similar in myself in them. I don’t know what it is, but ever since grade school, I’ve gravitated towards the ‘shy’ ones.

      As I got older, I started to wonder why, and one of the things I realized was quiet people usually notice and hear a hecka a lot more than extroverted ppl. I saw it as a superpower and I wanted to be closer to ppl who had that.

      Perhaps INJFs like me are bridges because we can relate to both extrovertism and introvertism.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. Being in China “forced” me to be friends with people that I wouldn’t have looked at twice when I was in Spain. Well, I was also young and judgy then, deciding if people were interesting or not based on the type of music they liked. HELLOOO, who even cares about that, haha. I have also been the one receiving the judgyness sometimes… I don’t speak much in real life (esp. in Spanish) and people sometimes believe I am snob, or rude, or something. Oh well.

    Not bitching about people is a great tip and one I try to follow although I sometimes bitch about “people” in general.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your honesty. Folks have been judged on far less, that’s for sure. Music is important and I understand why you felt that way. Like someone way into a particular kind of music or band that I don’t care for – it would be hard to find ways to ‘shake hands’, but hey, folks are complex, if anything you can laugh over differences.

      And I think we all bitch about ppl in general. Esp drivers. Hahahaha.


  7. You mentioned our lack of skill in debate, which reminded me of something that happened when I was in high school. I think I was a sophomore when I joined the debate group. I have know idea why I joined. In the spring we drove to Corvallis, OR for the tournament. After less than a day, I came down with what we called then the “hard measles,” as distinguished from the 3-day measles. I was so happy to be sent home and avoid the debates. Formal debates are stressful. But real-life debates with people getting angry upset me. And I guess we’ve learned from the current political climate that they often just cause people to harden their views.

    You can’t go wrong treating another person with kindness. It can be a challenge, though, when you have little in common. I’m thinking of a cousin who will talk on and on about things that don’t interest me. It’s kind to listen to her. But I’ve also learned a few gentle ways to change the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s extremely stressful. I think it takes a crazy kind of person to like it. The times I taught it I think it was an overall positive experience. If anything it can introduce critical thinking skills.

      It’s true, ppl just double down on their views which is one of the big reasons why I keep it at a distance. If I don’t create ‘space’ then I’ll get angry over everything. It’s not indifference, it’s self-perseverance!

      Ahhh, I think we all know someone who takes over the conversation. It’s hard not to ‘check out’ – hahaha – it’s a missed opportunity to have a true conversation and sometimes I feel like that’s okay, like we just have to move on.


  8. Again a great post!

    I wonder if “white-hot” is actually a positive term… Never came across it B-)

    “In the past, I would be disappointed over a seemingly so-so connection, but now I feel like it’s okay. Hollywood is not reality.”

    I can totally relate to this and I think apart from the fact that Hollywood is not true, even if it initially “clicks” perfectly, people change anyway- especially if they travel a lot and experience many new situations. So, after a while your “best friend” might simply not match so well anymore, anyway.

    This being said, I found it a bit disillusioning that after two years in Mexico I quickly lost contact to almost all of my friends there, because as soon as we didn’t share the bare minimum of living in the same geography, there was simply nothing to talk about anymore. As you wrote: if it had not been during my time as an expat, I would never have become friends with these people… It’s ok, but it still feels a bit “wrong” to me to have such very temporary relations because in the moment of establishing them, I silently already know that it will be a very limited connection and so maybe I might even invest less… And I don’t like myself thinking like this :-\


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure, but it’s funny. Right? Right!

      People do change. Reminds me of high school when you wrote ‘best friends forever’ in yearbooks and secret notes, and then you both had different experiences, grew apart, and then it’s an awkward dance or a fading away.

      The thing is though it does take two to tangle. I find I’m available to keep in touch, but many folks aren’t. They don’t make the commitment. Love them. Don’t get me wrong, but some ppl admit they don’t keep in touch well.

      Okay, I think I went off topic a little 😛

      From my limited experiences, I’ve been surprised by who ends up being the ‘closer friend’ or the friend who stays in touch – and who I end up seeing again years down the road.

      I think it’s hard to say, so giving ppl a chance is a good idea. For example, there was a new guy at work who everyone thought was a bit of a fool with his money. But I’ve always been part of the welcome committee for those new at work, and my BF said he was a decent guy. So, I tried to be pleasant even though it was unpopular to do so.

      Time goes by and when a huge tragedy hit another coworker the ‘new guy’ ended up more often by the coworker’s hospital bed (and helping out financially) than his so-called closer friends.

      The hospital bed guy said, “I had you wrong and I’m sorry about that.” And you’re damn right ppl at work changed their opinions of the ‘new guy’ after that.


  9. Great post, Lani!
    One would think living in a multicultural society it would help “stretch” people. Not always. May harden certain edges, as you know.

    I also think growing up in a large family, it helps abit build some resilency to some annoying things about people at times.

    One thing I noticed in myself when I began full-time work in the corporate world, is initial inability to “get” circumulocution that is typical in middle-class to upper middle-class folks. I grew up in a family with direct behaviour and remarks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up some interesting points. Family is really the first place where we learn ‘social norms’ and/or how to interact w/ folks. I may have only had one sibling, but I’m glad I did. There’s some interesting research about the influence of having a brother for women.

      As far as circumlocution (had to look it up), I think there is definitely a work culture that we all have to “learn” and adapt to that is unique to each work environment.


  10. This is so great, Lani. So much of your post spoke to me. I’ve been struggling over something similar myself: how to reconnect with friends who don’t share the same interests and I agree…sometimes one has to let that desire for deep connection go and accept (and appreciate) the bond for what it is. And, as you said so well, kindness helps so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What was tough about this post was afterwards I started to think about those times when I didn’t handle things so well. I almost wanted to write a follow up post because I’m not very good about dealing with people I don’t want to hang out with. How to be nice about that, right?

      Thanks though. It’s a constant struggle, but hopefully we get better as we go!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! How to stretch ourselves to build bridges with people we don’t want to? This remains a challenge for me, but thanks for the motivation to keep at it.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. This is an interesting, thought-provoking post. When I have co-workers that I don’t like or get along with well, I try to find a common ground outside of work. One of my biggest work enemies became one of my best work friends when I went out of my way to talk about his favorite sports teams with him.

    I was like your partner in regards to politics, but now I am focusing on talking to like-minded people who don’t vote. If I can get 10 people to the polls next year that is better than changing one mind of someone who disagrees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose this small corner of the Internet is where I try to be myself, and by doing so, I hope folks will see issues that they previously thought they had ‘figured out’ in a new light. I’m here to learn as well, and I try to keep my tone as such.

      I’m not so much interested in getting folks to the polls as much as getting people to critically look at the news and issues that surround us.

      That’s great about your coworker. Those things do happen, probably more than we realize 🙂


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