How often do we find ourselves trying to change people who are close to us? Our criticism and cajoling can get old and go nowhere. Perhaps a fresh, constructive look at people in our lives and ourselves can resolve such impasses and enable us to enjoy our company with them as never before.
People spend decades trying to mold parents, spouse, children, friends, neighbors and co-workers into a likeness of themselves, or at least a set of interests, values and behaviors more like their own. In some cases we finally resign ourselves to tolerance if not resentment. What choices do we have for how to relate to off putting differences between ourselves and the people in our lives?
In the words of the Serenity Prayer, “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Short of control and threat, change in other people is their decision, not ours. How can we resolve any make over wishes toward others who may resist changes that we want?
We can respect and accept differences that are inherent in our personalities. We tend to pick life partners and long-term friends who are in some ways different from us largely to balance our dominant personality traits. For example, introverts can benefit from their extraverted partners’ richness of social intercourse, and, conversely, extraverts can learn the values of alone time in quiet, reflective activities or settings.
Unfortunately we can too frequently try to draw someone into the kinds of activities that are easiest and most comfortable for us without considering how difficult a stretch that may be for that person. Just as we cannot be all things to all people, no one can share all our interests and meet all our needs. That is why individuals join camera, book and garden clubs, and why some spouses sometimes travel with friends instead of their spouses.
Relationships can be trying when we are invested in having things go our way. Because we also hunger for peace and harmony, we sometimes need to let go and take an objective and compassionate look at challenging, annoying differences. What can lead to healthy compromise is to share the nature of a discomforting difference between us and the other person, and the reason why we would like a change in the behavior between us. We can mind the old saying, “You can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.”
The next time someone in our life exhibits a behavior that annoys us, we can express our understanding in a caring, even humorous way, and we can humbly, even sweetly offer a compromise that may be acceptable to them and a relief to us. Perhaps we can try this today and then enjoy the honey together.
Sandy Cohen & Roger Cormier (email: [email protected]; free blog: starguide4growingolder.wordpress.com)