Life is a shared existence. There is no escaping it; we depend on others, personally and professionally.
Because of this, we’re better off getting along with others. But this can be difficult when others behave in ways that don’t make sense to us: they have different opinions, different approaches, and different interests.
To many of us, this is endlessly frustrating. After all, mustn’t it be true that only one approach is right and everything else is wrong? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if others did as we do?
How do we resolve this conflict, and get back to getting along with others?
ACCEPTING PEOPLE FOR WHO THEY ARE
If we hold an opinion, it’s not reasonable to assume that everyone who disagrees is wrong. Even if they were, we won’t get anywhere trying to change so many minds.
We need to ask ourselves how it is possible for many, disagreeing opinions to each be justified.
A starting point is to consider what might have led a person towards their certain beliefs. We should ask ourselves what they must have observed in the world that informs their perspective, and what positive value we can find in their reasoning.
If we don’t, we cut ourselves off from the truth in their perspective. If we give them proper consideration, however, we can open a dialogue between differing opinions. This is how conflicts get resolved, with each side learning something from the other.
We may struggle to respect those who have a different lifestyle than ours. We may not understand their interests, and we may disagree with how they choose to solve their problems.
But we need to consider that different people occupy different niches. Two different people can be equally successful with two different approaches, especially if each approach is suited to its respective environment.
For example, being assertive and competitive may be suitable in a business environment, but not in a childcare environment.
People tend to seek out a niche that suits the way their mind is structured. This explains the diversity of niches in the world; there are as many niches as there are minds.
GIVING OTHERS INDEPENDENCE
Trying to change the basic structure of somebody’s mind will lead to unintended consequences. For these reasons, we must assume that people will make choices that satisfy their needs, without our intervention.
When their needs are satisfied, they will grow. As they grow, their needs will change, and their opinions and niches may change correspondingly.
If we interfere with their choices, we deprive them of their needs; we will quickly find ourselves becoming their enemy. The only time to intervene is when someone we care about endangers themselves or others. We must be judicious about whether or not this is really the case.
When it is not, we must be willing to allow others to make certain mistakes, so that they may learn from their own experience. This also means accepting that our loved ones may have a different (but equally legitimate) mission in life, even when they don’t follow in our footsteps.
We can’t make others grow; not even our most loved ones. We can only provide a healthy environment that allows them to grow. If we do, we will find them taking charge of their own growth, even if they do so in unexpected ways.
THE REAL PROBLEM
So why are we so compelled to influence others? What’s the source of all this? Why is accepting differences in others such a struggle?
If the problem is not within others, it must be within us.
The need to have other people carry out our goals and hold our opinions comes from insecurity; a fear that our goals and opinions are not legitimate.
If we doubt our own accomplishments, we may attempt to impose them on others. It’s easier to feel secure about what we’ve done if others are doing it too. Further, if we struggle with our goals, we may attempt to accomplish them vicariously through an unwilling apprentice.
Likewise, when others hold opinions contrary to our own, we feel a threat to our ideas and beliefs. Doubt, for many, is a painful experience. This causes an attempt to suppress our supposed aggressor by imposing our own ideas and beliefs upon them.
THE REAL SOLUTION
Knowing the source of these behaviours, we will have an effective strategy for eliminating them. This insecurity, like any, can be addressed directly. If we open up to trustworthy people, we can be assuaged.
These trustworthy people can reassure us of our achievements, support our goals, and validate our opinions. When others are unavailable, however, we need to be the ones to reassure ourselves.
This support, complemented by our efforts to work on our insecurities in general, may cure us of our maladaptive behaviours.
We get along better with loved ones, colleagues, and strangers. Our self-esteem improves, which filters through to all aspects of our life. Positivity and opportunity flow to us.
So strive to understand why people are different. Learn how their differences serve them, and see how their different contributions to society make their way back to you. Change yourself, not others. Accepting differences is far more effective, and far more fruitful.