No man is an island, and unless and until you are cast away like Tom Hanks on an island, you’ll have to deal with people everyday which is not an easy task. We cannot think, ‘I’ll deal with this person like this’ and get over with it, people change in time. I’ve always had only few friends, ’cause I never believed in befriending every person I meet in life (the prospect of which is very exhausting). But, when I do find people after my own heart, I strive to build and maintain that relationship. I’ve made many mistakes in life, sometimes lost a few good friends due to my hubris and ego or just to plain stubbornness. I still stumble but ‘making mistakes & learning from them’ isn’t it the way to live. Over the years, I mellowed down, at least that’s what I like to tell myself (I can hear my ego screaming, ‘you are just bowing down to others more these days’, but if that’s the right thing to do, then probably, I should) and my thoughts on how to deal with friends/family have changed over time. This is where I stand today. I may be right, I may be wrong, this might not be the place I wanted to be, but probably needed to be. We learn from experience don’t we?
- People change – I remember one dramatic movie dialogue ‘you are not the person I met once, you’ve changed’. Almost an allegation. But, the truth is, people change. They should, it means they are learning from life – experiencing it, understanding how the world works, altering their values – and adjusting their course. You may not see this change coming because it happens gradually. But, just like in the movies throwing these allegation onto others serves no one. People change, and so will you. So will the dynamics of the relationship. Get used to it.
- People do not play by your rulebook – Our beliefs and values are shaped by our experiences, and these become the rules we judge others & ourselves by. The same is true for others. Just as you think people should behave in such-such way in a situation, others will also do the same for you. The act you see as ‘lack of respect’ might just mean ‘being friendly’ to others. Understanding each other’s rulebook helps in a relationship.
- Control your emotions and put yourself in their shoes – this requires a great deal of self control and discipline. When you put your emotions aside and step into other’s shoes you’ll understand the reasons why that person is behaving in a certain way. When we understand, we forgive. It is not that we do not know this, but it is that we actively chose not to step into other’s shoes, ’cause we know we’ll understand them if we do which means, we’ll have to control our emotions which we don’t want to do. So, we don’t do it, because we don’t want to forgive, because we want others to feel our pain and the best way to do that is by causing them the same pain. When we can control that urge and step back and think what the right thing is, think what the best way for everyone in the relationship is to sail through even at the expense of smashing your own ego, you’ll cement that relationship.
- Logic wins arguments but loses relations – Once, my friend and I got into an argument. We both believed the other person was wrong. I didn’t realize there can be two rights and believed that for one person to be right the other person had be wrong. I didn’t realize that people think differently, see life differently, and that their decisions are based on their experience which are again different from individual to individual. We got into arguments. We both felt we destroyed the other with our arguments. What happened was our hatred towards each other grew to a point where we didn’t want to be in each other’s company. I don’t remember what the argument was about now, or who won it, all I remember is we no longer talk to each other.
- Let go – Yet another time another friend and I got into an argument. I knew he was wrong. But, he never accepted. He was too proud. ‘So, am I’ I told myself. I’ll talk to him, when he realises his mistake and comes to me. We never spoke again. Everyone makes mistakes. In a relationship there are bound to be disagreements & arguments. It is upto you to decide which ones you’ll take up for discussion and which ones you let slide past you. When will you be able to do this? When you deem your relationship is more important than the squabble, when you remember why you wanted to be with the other person – be it love or friendship – and decide the issue is not worth fighting over in the long run.
- Do not take others for granted – When you are with a person for sometime, you know the person, you can to some extent start predicting how the other person will react to a situation. And, once you’ve earned their trust you might lull yourself into believing that you know what the other person would say and think, and start taking decisions on their behalf. Once or twice is OK, but, every person wants to feel valued, to matter, to be asked for opinions. When you don’t play to that emotion, you invite trouble. Give people importance, let them have their say.
- Relations are not business deals – I believed for a long time in ‘you’ll receive what you give – nothing more, nothing less’. But, in life, you’ll have to keep giving and giving before you can even think of seeing any result. True, not getting a pay off, not getting anything in return in any relationship is exhausting. But, if you feel the relationship, the other person is worth it, then invest the time and effort. I read somewhere that their is a ‘trust fund’ in every relationship and our every action either deposits or withdraws from that fund. Doing something for others deposits and being selfish and ignoring them withdraws from it. Invest in your relationship without an eye for the reward. There is still no guarantee the other in the relation will recognize this effort. But, there’s no other way.
- There are no happy endings – My key takeaway from the book ‘The road less travelled’ was Life is hard, expecting otherwise is what leads to all major issues in life. I feel the same is true with relationships. There is no ‘happily ever after’. Relationships are dynamic in nature changing in time. You can be in a great relationship status quo, but that’ll not last forever. When people change the fragile balance you’ve maintained with them gets affected. You’ll again need to strive to get that balance back again. Sometimes its easily struck, sometimes it takes time. But, maintaining a relationship over time takes effort.
Life is a hard teacher. It teaches you the lesson after the damage is done. That is why it is important to learn from observation and from reading. But, no matter what you do, you’ll from time to time falter in relationships. But, keep going, doing what you think is best at that point and keeping an open mind to understand other’s perspectives.