Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Getting Along

There may be some exceptions to this - I can think of a few, but generally speaking, I like the idea.

I've noticed a tendency for people to split in "camps" and to reject a person wholly if he doesn't fit into theirs.

I think I know why too, but it's not strictly necessary.

Have you met Bob? Bob is my generic example person. You have met him. You and Bob disagree on just about everything, but he's not a bad guy. Within his own group of friends he's the one you can depend on to help out. He's such a good egg in fact, that although you have nothing in common he'd help you out too. But it's hard work being friends with Bob because no matter the topic, you soon get into an argument.

When you are asked why you don't like Bob, you may say "I just don't understand where he's coming from".

So, what makes you think you're so special that you have the right to understand Bob?


Well, you could ask him. You could try to understand him. But you may not find it possible, and that is your problem, not his.

I spent a lot of time with Bob, some years ago. We had all sorts of conversations. There were times I wanted to yell at him, or even beat him over the head. But it was obvious that underneath all his (quite sincere) views that I just didn't "get", was a heart of gold. And so, despite myself, I couldn't help liking him. And we've stayed friends. Our conversations are limited to really quite shallow things, to avoid argument, but every so often we've helped each other out.

Maybe you work with Bob. Maybe you live next door to him. Maybe he's an in-law, or your uncle. One way or another, there's no avoiding him, and sometimes it's really, really hard.

Here's the thing. The world is full of Bobs. They are a sort of challenge. You know how you enjoy other challenges? Maybe a difficult game level, or a crossword, or a complicated knitting pattern. Most of us at some point deliberately take on a project that we know will test us, and the sense of accomplishment afterwards is delicious. That is to say, most humans like to solve a puzzle.

Well, Bob is a puzzle. This is one where the solving isn't quite what you really want, which is to understand him fully. Nobody can ever understand another human fully. Most humans don't even understand themselves fully.

Solving this puzzle involves simply connecting the dots enough to grant Bob some respect.

That doesn't mean you have to respect his opinions. It just means you have to accept that he has his reasons for those opinions, even if they seem crazy to you.

You can be polite about it. Remember Bob is basically a nice guy. He feels the same about your opinions, but he has never been rude to you. So in return you can say "I don't share your opinion Bob" and leave it at that.

This is called tolerance. Tolerance is NOT accepting or agreeing with a person's views. It is saying, well obviously it works for him in some way, I don't like it, but him having those views does not harm me.

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