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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?