How to get along with others
People can be frustrating, annoying, difficult – you name the emotion – basically not easy to get along with. Or can they? In our little worlds, as in our minds, when it comes to relationships with others it’s easy to think that we do things the right way and that others are wrong – whether it’s how they structure their time, wash the dishes, run a meeting, cook their food, etc. However, that is where the problem exists. When we feel we are right and others are wrong we often want to change them. This never has a happy ending because you can’t change people.
For most of my life I’ve thought the way I did things was the right way and I needed to convince others of their errant ways. Yep, seems pretty self-righteous doesn’t it?! I learned from a pro – my mother was very good at making sure things were done her way. But, I’ve learned that my way is the right way, but only for me. How I do things and live my life works for me and only me. I get frustrated with others when I expect them to do things the way I want them done. When I focus on changing others, I don’t get a chance to focus on myself and live my own life. I get so busy trying to run other people’s lives I end up being miserable and burned out. And, not surprising, people don’t like feeling they are wrong. So, I not only exhaust myself, I alienate others. Not a very good way to live.
Today, I remind myself that there is no right way. Everyone – even people who do things I completely disagree with – has their own path and their own process. So, I “stay in my lane,” so to speak. I focus on myself rather than others. It’s a much more peaceful way to live. I don’t have to obsess about changing people or getting them to agree with me, I can just let them be. I remind myself that the only person I can change is me. When I work on changing myself – which could be my attitude, where I live, the words I use, how I spend my time, etc. – rather than trying to change others usually good things happen.
I’ll give you an example – it’s not necessarily about one person but a process. I attended a silent meditation retreat recently, something I have never done before, and the first day was very hard. I was angry, frustrated, judgmental – you name it, lots of negative emotions. I wanted to leave and go home. It wasn’t a fun place to be emotionally. So, that night, as I walked to dinner I decided to change my attitude and focus on the things I was grateful for. I made a very long list of the gifts I appreciated, including the amazing stars in the very clear sky, the delicious meals, the time to get away from the demands of my personal and professional life, and so much more. When I finished my list I was much happier and accepting. The next day was a lot better. I could have resisted and hated the whole retreat or I could change my attitude, and that’s what I did and it paid off. Attending the retreat was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
I sometimes get calls from wives who want their husbands to work with me so I can change “their bad manners.” But, I learned very quickly that if the husband does not want to change or doesn’t feel he needs changing the sessions will be for naught. He has to want to improve his etiquette and manners. I can’t force anyone to adjust their behavior and I don’t want to. So, now when a wife calls frustrated with her husband’s manners I ask to speak to the husband. If he is interested and committed to working with me then we will proceed with coaching, but if he is just agreeing to the process for his wife I won’t work with him.
So, if you’re struggling with a relationship; before assuming the other person is wrong and must change, start by looking in the mirror. Can you change something about yourself to make the relationship better or easier? Can you accept that person as s/he is? Steve Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” And Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” I would add, “live and let live” you’ll be much happier when you do.
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