Let’s face it: we are, for the most part, a self-centered society. How many times do you listen to a conversation, all the while focusing not on what the other person is talking about, but what you will say next? So many people immediately begin talking about themselves after “listening” to the other person. Am I right?
I mean, I do it all the time.
I think my main problem was that I always expected other people to be on the same wave-length as myself.
I’ve really let go of that mentality since I arrived, alarmingly, at the doorstep of age 40. It’s still a process, but as I climb the ladder to the big 5-0, it seems more and more of that stuff is going out the door. Thank God.
But the whole struggle with relating to others is all around us, isn’t it? People tend to forget where they came from or what they once dealt with.
I know it is very hard for some retired folks or empty nesters to understand why younger folks or parents seem a little crazy at times. How soon they forget.
I always expected older folks to be more patient and laid back due to their life experiences, but I find many are impatient and must have everything done now, now, now. It’s almost as if some of them regress to the “me” centered mentality of their childhood.
It is hard to understand flexibility, especially when those folks are dealing with people working full-time jobs and juggling the lives of young children. I wish it were easier for some of them.
As a veteran teacher, I often have a hard time relating to younger teachers or brand-new teachers. I find myself wondering “what colleges are teaching these kids, now days.” I often criticize teacher-prep programs for not properly instructing future teachers on how to hold children accountable or discipline students the right way.
Then, my 23-year-old self pops out from somewhere in the recess of my head and says, “Look dude, I don’t know squat about teaching yet. No amount of field work or classroom instruction can adequately prepare you for battle. You have a lot to learn.”
So, after marveling a bit at how skinny my 23-year-old self is, I say, begrudgingly, “I know, I know. Shut up.”
It’s hard medicine to take. But it’s true. As a young teacher, I thought I knew it all. But it took me a good five years or so to really even know how to survive. After almost 25 years, I’m still reinventing the wheel at times and trying to figure out better ways to do things.
And while we’re on the subject of education; well, for as long as teachers and administrators have been around, you will hear teachers say teachers who become administrators forget very quickly what it was like to be a teacher.
At times, I agree whole-heartedly. Still, I’ve also seen (and I’m not kissing up) administrators do their darndest to take care of teachers. So, see, I’m trying to relate to both sides. That’s not very easy. Almost always, I’m on the side of the teachers (insert smiley face here).
We deal with folks who can’t relate every day. People can’t understand why you’re tired, low on funds, need to mow your yard or clean your house better. Why can’t you keep your car cleaner? What’s so hard about managing a household schedule, planning meals, paying bills, etc.?
There are folks who can’t understand folks who are unemployed, homeless, mentally ill, etc. It’s very hard to relate unless you’ve been there.
My solution to relating to others is to simply stop and think. I mean, there’s usually a good reason for the way people be- have and there’s a good reason why some folks seem out of it.
Plus, it rarely has anything to do with me. So I can’t relate to some folks. Big deal. Life goes on anyway, doesn’t it? Most of the problems we have relating to others have to do with the fact we are always focused on ourselves more than anything or anyone else.
But perhaps the most refreshing thing that has happened to me is finally learning about the ability to shrug off those folks who don’t relate to me or my family. This may sound harsh, but there’s really so much in this life I no longer care about. I like to think I care about the important stuff and again, shrug off the rest.
A committee member sighs and wonders why I’m unable to come to a meeting on a certain date. That sigh used to bother me and I would either retaliate by saying something smart or getting angry.
I have also gone out of my way to rush around and be a big people pleaser, often neglecting my family in order to make others happy. I don’t do that anymore.
My car is a little dirtier these days. There are bunches of things I need to do to my house, inside and out. People want me to volunteer for things.
I try to help out when I can. Still, I’d rather take a drive with my boys or play cards with my daughter or build block houses with the baby.
And if I don’t exactly suit other folks, if I don’t get things accomplished on their timetable, if I cause people to shake their heads or say “tsk, tsk”…
Let’s practice: Huge shoulder shrug followed by deep breath. As we let out our breath, we say, in a pleasing tone: “Oh well.”