Anytime you live with people, issues will come up that must be dealt with.
Or not. You could just avoid people, ignore the issues, and keep going, but that doesn’t usually seem to work out so well long term. It can seem like the more appealing option sometimes, because dealing with issues is HARD. It takes a lot of courage, and a willingness to go through some pain and discomfort. And yet every time I’ve had enough courage to take the plunge, it has been completely worth it.
Sometimes, “dealing with it” has meant working things out with other people.
Lately, though, it’s meant a make-over for the way that I think about things.
Here are the three things I am trying to think about when I am frustrated with somebody:
1) Ask the question, “Why would a completely sane, reasonable person do something like this?”
Ben took a conflict management class for his Masters program this last year, and this was one of the questions he was taught to ask. And you know what? It makes all the difference in the world.
When someone makes a choice to do something which seems completely unreasonable, annoying, or foolish to me, asking this question produces the same answer every time: They do it because they don’t know. They don’t know how I feel, they don’t know all the facts, they don’t realize that it’s difficult for other people.
And that’s okay! Since when does everybody know everything? Since never. And when I realize this, I start to think about the situation from the other person’s point of view. I start to see how things might look from their perspective, which is always going to be different from my perspective.
“Not knowing” is so much easier to take than “being a jerk”.
2) Assume that everyone is trying their very best.
Why is it so easy to assume that people are being lazy or careless or rude, and if they would just try a little harder, everything would be fine?
Who says they are not trying their very best? Maybe they have some heavy burden to carry that you don’t know about, maybe they’re going through a really tough time, and for whatever reason, this is their best.
When you think about it that way, so much annoyance disappears, and it’s possible to give somebody the benefit of the doubt.
3) That person is God’s favorite.
Jon Acuff wrote an incredible post about how every single person is God’s favorite. And when someone is annoying me, and I think, “_________ is God’s favorite”, it is very hard to stay mad and think evil thoughts.
The same God who loves me loves them. He made me, He made them. I pray for God to get me through a tough time, and they pray to the same God. Who am I to think that I’m better, that I know better, that my choices are better, that I deserve to be more blessed by God?
If problems are cut off during the thought process, they stay a lot smaller.
And now you know exactly what I’m trying to think when I’m in a difficult situation. I repeat those three thoughts to myself over and over. Sometimes. When I have PMS, I generally seem to ditch the effort and just let ‘er rip, but I’m working on that, too!
What’s your secret for getting along with difficult people?