Why People Don’t Get Along

Why is it so difficult for us to get along with one another? After all, we all have the same basic needs in life. We all want to be valued, to be acknowledged for the good that we do, to be treated fairly and given sufficient opportunities in life; we all want to be accepted as we are and to be loved in the same way. Aside from the packaging and our individual talents and goals, we are all basically the same. Yet it seems the majority of people fail to recognize our similarities and focus instead on our differences. Keep in mind that while our disparities are intended to be advantageous, they are for the most part a source of stress and division among us. And along with those dissimilarities comes uncertainty, not knowing what to expect or how we will be affected. Our concerns grow from benign curiosity to being uncomfortable, concerned, anxious, and fearful. Fear, one of the underlying causes of anger, can easily lead to defensiveness which in turn gets expressed as aggression, sarcasm, control, retaliation, and more.

Consider the following: your company hires a new manager for your department. They are from a culture foreign to your beliefs and lifestyle. In the fifteen years you’ve worked for this company everyone has become used to doing things in a certain way that has proven effective. However, that’s about to change. With the new manager comes a new way of doing business. You become defensive when asked to change the way in which you have been completing your tasks and follow the new guidelines. The uneasiness growing inside you creates feelings of resistance and hostility. This isn’t going to work for me! you say to yourself. Why should I have to change when everything’s been fine until now? Your hesitancy to comply with the new rules causes friction between you and the manager that eventually leads to an angry confrontation.

Or perhaps your child reveals to you that they no longer subscribe to the religious beliefs upon which you raised them: a Jew finds Jesus and converts to Christianity; a Christian, disheartened by the immoral condition of the world, cannot fathom an all-loving Divine Being and chooses atheism as a way of life. Your daughter finds Buddhism a more relatable belief system. Whatever the case, your beliefs are being challenged by your child to which you take personal offense as it is interpreted as an attack on your intelligence. Fear of what may happen to your child as a result of their outlandish beliefs becomes a very real concern. You become defensive and lash back, accusing your child of being seduced by the devil. Or you may try intimidating them with such statements as “Your father and I will disown you if you don’t follow the faith you were raised in” or “You’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus.” Family relationships can disintegrate when one chooses to live life on their own terms.

So how can people get along with each other? It’s not difficult but requires two key elements:

1. Self-esteem: each party needs to feel comfortable enough with themselves that the other party’s opposition does not pose a threat to their level of intelligence, their beliefs, or lifestyles. Refusing to take personal offense when others reject your beliefs or behaviors prevents one from being hurt or feeling threatened. And in doing so, there is no need for anger. One can simply accept that each person is unique and entitled to do what works best for them.

2. Self-confidence: any change in the status quo creates feelings of uncertainty and anxiety (mild fear). One who maintains a strong belief in their ability to adapt to or benefit from change can more easily make the necessary adjustments, knowing they can take whatever life hands them and make it work for them as opposed to against. This positive attitude enables the person to go with the flow, so-to-speak, while seeking to learn and grow from their new circumstances. The hopeful approach averts anger and replaces it with excitement, gratitude, eagerness, and such.

If there is someone in your life who you do not get along with, consider examining your issues of self-esteem and self-confidence. Work on strengthening that which is weak and both of you will be able enjoy the increase of compatibility in your relationship. Fear less; understand, appreciate, and accept more: a simple formula for getting along effortlessly with others.

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