One of the most challenging aspects of living with another human is that they aren’t you.
The conundrum is reflected in all of life, since most of it is made up of interpersonal relationships.
Whether at work, at home, or with friends and colleagues, we can be sure that everyone involved will be different. In the midst of all the uniqueness, there is one cardinal rule that can be applied to most situations: let things go.
When someone is born, they’re named. The name they’re given has most likely persisted throughout their life, and it has helped create who they are.
Let’s call “them” Mark. Mark likes to do certain things, act a certain way, and appear to the outside world in a style that looks comfortable to him. His story comes with preferences, assumptions, characteristics, and sound. His story makes up his identity.
When Mark encounters differences in life—when things outside of himself aren’t a part of his identity—he appreciates them. With unique qualities come colorful expressions of knowledge, history, culture, and tradition. Mark likes different things.
So what’s the problem with Mark?
Mark goes through a situation that all people eventually realize: some things they like, some things they don’t like. And, when it comes to living or working with other people, those likes and dislikes get in the way of Mark’s happiness and contentment.
The deeper Mark gets to know someone, the more emotions get involved; and the more he’s around them, the more opportunities for ideals to clash. When we live or work around people, our likes and dislikes become obvious, and it can either bring people closer together or more distant.
The Way Things Should Be
After living a certain way for long enough, we feel that the ways we’ve become accustomed to should stay the same. Mark’s story, his identity, means so much to his mind because that’s what he knows is real—he’s Mark, and that’s plenty for now.
When other things, people, or situations get in the middle of Mark and his story, likes, and dislikes, life gets a bit shaky, less solid and known. Unique and different things have unknown aspects that tend to scare Mark, and he tries to keep a good balance of known and unknown while leaning mostly to the known or explored areas of our life. We are all like Mark deep down.
In life, we’re going to experience unknown situations, people, and things. In our relationship, we are constantly going to be confronted with differences, uniqueness, other stories, and anomaly. Not everything is going to go our way, or adhere to how we like things to be.
If Mark’s spouse doesn’t do what he does, like the same things, sound the same way, or act as he’d like, he’s going to have to let some of those things be as they are, else he is (and we are) going to be miserable. We aren’t our spouse—no matter how similar we may appear.
We all want to keep our individuality, our likes and dislikes—our identity. Once we get comfortable with who we are and know what makes us that way, we want to keep those things close.
Living or working with others doesn’t have to change that, and we can keep our identity while letting others keep theirs. The challenge eventually boils down to that last part; can you let the other people in your relationships be themselves, too?
Your spouse, coworkers, friends, and colleagues have a story of their own, a uniqueness just like you.
In that way, we are all the same. Likes, dislikes, things that make up who we want to be, how we want to sound, and how we want to appear to others make up the identity of all of us. A lot of conflict in the home and at work or school can be made harmonious—like a finely tuned instrument—once we let our differences be the way they are without trying to change them.
A thriving harmonious life–with relationships of all kinds—begins when we start to appreciate, and at times accentuate, those differences. We stop thinking we change others and begin to see the beauty in individuality.
Letting someone feel like they can still be themselves around you is a major factor in solidarity and comfort. When something comes up that irritates you, make sure that you’re not just wanting the other person to be like you. They’re not you, and wanting them to be is unhealthy manipulation along with an insecurity of who you are. In letting some things go, and letting other people be who they are, Mark can be content that he is still himself and his loved ones, friends, and colleagues are still comfortable being who they are.
Chances are if we don’t like something we see in someone else, we have the same characteristic within us.
Instead of wanting someone else to change, change yourself, and the people you attract will have qualities in them that you want to be around.
*It should be noted that the philosophy of “let things go” doesn’t apply to the extremes of life. If our relationships are abusive or hurtful, or if our workplace is dangerous or insensitive, then we need to change our situation. Letting things go applies to the normally small aspects of life that have insignificant consequences once carried out, and usually can only result in irritation at the most.