Working Out Differences
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | May 2018
Working out differences is the ultimate challenge of closeness and the key to relationship success.
We can't please everybody, nor should we try. But this doesn’t suggest we carelessly ignore feelings—others matter. While seeking personal gratifications, we must maintain awareness of impacts our behaviors have on others. No man is an island. If we are willing to succeed at any cost, we might find, in time, we are painfully alone. A well-connected person mindfully examines behaviors, evaluating the consequences of those behaviors—not just personal benefits but also wide spread costs to others.
Human interaction is complex. We act in response to other’s actions and they act in response to us; this cycle continues. Memories of past interactions impact influence are prediction of meanings and responses. If certain actions were not well-received in the past, or ignited a powerful response, this information lives in the present—not necessarily consciously or even logical.
Our defections from kindness don’t go unnoticed. Are we loyal? Are we considerate? Are we selfish? Or are we suckers? The minds of all involved gather these chunks of information, determining a response. Our social interactions are complex because it involves other humans with their own lives, wants, feelings, and dreams.
Just because their experiences exist outside our knowledge doesn’t devalue the importance of their learning. Ignoring others in our pursuits destroys relationships—often connections essential for security and healthy.
"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."
Mindfulness during crucial interactions alerts to missed information that we may have previously overlooked. Mindfulness requires drawing more than the automatic, only achieved by purposely seeking alternative and deeper meanings behind an interaction.
We must skeptically examine invoked emotions and initial responses, not simply accepting we acted appropriately and then protecting with well-worded justifications. This is a process of self-enlightenment. Mindful living requires openness to corrections and adjustments. We may be wrong. Gasp.
Our social interactions are complex because it involves other humans with their own lives, wants, feelings, and dreams.
We just can't get away from our all-encompassing labels. We want to smash everyone into small definable groups.
Have you ever noticed that once you get to know someone from a different group that they don't seem like everyone else from that group? It's not the person that's different. It's our limited perception of how the other group is defined. Our definition is wrong.
Groups that share some ideals also differ in infinite ways. We are different—all of us. When we don't see the differences in members of other groups, it is us that are blind. We need to first see, then appreciate.
"We go on and on about our differences. But, you know, our differences are less important than our similarities. People have a lot in common with one another, whether they see that or not."
By compassionately recognizing others as important, including their feelings as part of our decisions, we become part of a larger whole, creating a richer more connected life. We are not required to please everyone. This is impossible. But compassionate people do not act indifferently towards others. They understand the ties to the world, acting ethically and responsibly. And for their troubles, they are rewarded with a richer more fulfilling life.
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