Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Meeting Halfway

I think my #1 topic on blogs is human attitudes, and that's not surprising when it affects just about everything we do. We are funny beings, prone to anger, violence, and great cruelty at our worst, but also to incredible acts of kindness, altruism, and sacrifice at our best.

So, this contradiction, this range of behaviours from worst to best, give us plenty to think about, talk about, and work on.

I have a personal goal to be the very best person I can be. Obviously, I don't always succeed, but my intent is to be fair and kind, because I think that's the right way to be. I'm not the martyr type, I don't like that type to be honest, they seem to crave attention, and besides I'm no good to anyone else if I don't care for myself.

Not everyone strives for personal growth. Some people simply don't care if they are horrible. Others say they care but don't seem to do much about it. And most people...well, it can be half-hearted at times.

I tend to choose my friends among those who care, and who try. They've all got different ways of going about it, and I'm glad of that too. So, to sum up, while nobody is perfect, I'm certainly not, and I don't expect anyone else to be, I am happier in the company of, and in talking to people who at least are making the effort to be good people.

One of my constant themes in discussion and my own efforts, is the effect of personal choice. There is no question, no matter how non-judgemental you are trying to be, that some people make better choices than others. And, having made those choices, it is interesting to see how people work with their choices. Do they regret them? Try to change them? Accept responsibility for them? Or do they make excuses, claim defeat, and petulantly insist it's not their fault.

Last night at dinner two members of my family had a weird discussion. We won't call it an argument, it wasn't quite that, it was really a case of male banter, and I'm quite certain that although each was a little impatient with the other, it really didn't mean much to them. In fact had I not berated one of them afterwards, it would probably have been forgotten. But it was humourless, and it spoiled my dinner.

So, the one I viewed to be the instigator was told, by me, that I didn't like that type of conversation at the table, and that I thought it was inconsiderate. Also, that the attitude being shown was inappropriate. I was told, in essence, that he was just being him.

This may be so, but if "being him" is upsetting other people, it needs reflecting upon.

Now, there are two ways of looking at this. One is that I shouldn't be so touchy. I should leave them to get on with it. No harm done etc.

I could brush it off like that, and there have been plenty of times I have.

Aren't I the one, after all, who is constantly telling people that while we cannot change others, we can change how we respond to them.

I think that works well in most circumstances, and is a good approach to life. If you can let the moods of other people go right over your head, it will serve you well.

But there are certain situations that are a bit more intimate, and for me mealtimes are one of these. It is bordering on sacred. In a world where people eat fast food, alone, standing up, we are often far removed from the ritual of a shared meal, but I happen to believe in "breaking bread" together as a very special event, and I don't want it messed up by bad attitudes.

So, yes, I will call out anyone who spoils my meal. I can't expect them to behave correctly at all times, but they can save that for later.

I think we need compromise. We need to meet half way. First we need to meet half way in communication. To avoid misunderstandings, we need to express ourselves clearly, and listen carefully. Listen to what's actually being said. How often is someone who objects to what you said actually arguing a point you never made? So there's a shared responsibility in communication.

Then, all being clear what is being said, there needs to be a shared responsibility with regard to the fallout from it. We have to be careful not to take things personally that were not intended to be so, because it's not "all about me". But at the same time, it's not unreasonable to expect people to behave at least civilly. It is possible, for example, to have a difference of opinion, which cannot be solved, without resorting to arguments, accusations, and blame. So, the problem is not the difference of opinion, it's the attitude that goes along with it.

If we choose our words carefully, we can state most things without causing a problem. And if, having tried very hard to state our case politely and reasonably, we are accused of causing a problem, we can even then apologize without backing down. In other words, it is possible for two humans to oppose one another's stance completely, without any rudeness or unpleasantness. It can be done.

In politics they have trained diplomats to do this. There's a lot of tongue-biting, and handshakes with grim faces, but it stops us blowing each other up. Which is...you know... a very good thing.

But have you noticed how it seems to be easier to do this with strangers than those we are closest to? What's that all about?

So here's the thing, while it is indeed a wise policy to choose not to take offence at the behaviour of others, even when it offensive behaviour, it is NOT acceptable that the person behaving badly INSIST that others just put up with it. It doesn't work that way. Making allowances for others is noble, being a person demanding allowances be made is not.

It's amazing that we have reached 7.5 billion in numbers, many living in a very concentrated way, that we tolerate one another as well as we do. We can only achieve harmony if we agree to meet each other halfway, to compromise, to be flexible, to admit our faults, and to try to improve as individuals.

It's really no good to complain about warmongers if we can't even be polite at the dinner table.


  1. There is always one who insists on having their way or the highway. Discussions like that send me to the kitchen to hide.

    1. Yes. I can tolerate all sorts of quirks, but I have zero patience for that level of stubborn selfishness that I tend to associate with a two-year-old. Life is too short for pigheadedness.

  2. Inclusion means that for as much as we strive for equality, there is also a hierarchy of respect that exists. Going by age often works well; however there are times when even age does not provide quite the level of wisdom needed to adjust those offensive attitudes you mention. Oh, those energies are out there. I do not have to let them continue 'in here.' Boundaries may not have to be drawn like so many lines in the sand, but know that in addition to agreeing to disagree there are times when rank is pulled. If someone does not have the wherewithal to balance themselves, the respect moves from 'mutual' to 'instructive.' Get over it. ;) ~ Blessings! :)

    1. Hierachy is real. I will take the "queen" position if need be!

  3. Of course it is easier with strangers. They matter less. They don't push our buttons. The more important the relationship, the greater the chance we get upset. I am with you on the importance of meal times, though precisely that attitude can backfire. Back in the long-ago log cabin days my husband worked an evening shift and the only shared mealtimes were on the weekend. My husband knew hunger as a child in war. Mealtimes are important. Our sensitive, slightly Aspie toddler would pick those fraught meal times to be etra picky and spoil the occasion. Lower expectations all around would have made things easier. Just saying.

    1. When small children play up at mealtimes, I can overlook it. Not with adults!

  4. I want to add something to this, something that drives me insane; people who claim, "I'm too old to change!" BULL PADDIES!!! If an attitude needs to be changed because it is wrong, then "I'm too old" is a supreme cop-out.

    Debate and the intelligent exchange of ideas is a skill. It is a learned skill, like anything else. The more we practice, the better we are able to manage. Debating at home can be a great way to learn how to agree to disagree but when someone crosses the line and the debate is lost in some sort of childish mind game, then the learning ceases and the culprit comes off looking like a jerk. A lesson to those watching; don't want to look like a jerk? Don't behave like so and so, have coherent points with back up.

    The supper table is sacrosanct to me as well. I spent a childhood where dinner could be, (due to alcohol abuse) a horrible ordeal and I swore that dinners would never be that way in my home. When anyone was out of line, they were asked, respectfully, to leave the table until such a time as they could behave according to my rules.

    1. The "too old to change" doesn't work on me either, because those people have had plenty of time to change, they just chose not to.