Adventures In Self Discovery To Transform Your Life

Chapter 12
Getting Along With Yourself And The Rest Of Us

Get Along With The Rest Of Us
So here we are, all seven billion of us in a complex, fast moving world full of problems and challenges. Each of us a unique individual with our own point of view, beliefs and background. When it comes right down to it, it's up to us to make our lives work. This is a mighty challenge. Each of us has to make sense of this moment. We need to accept, honor, even celebrate our differences. We need to get along. But how? How can we come together to understand and embrace our differences?

We are all human beings. Everyone matters. In some way everyone is necessary to our well being. We need to get along. The necessary skills are pretty basic. Life seems to work best when we structure our world so everyone knows and supports everyone else. This may be a small part of the answer to how do we get along. Let's look for some ways to be ourselves and work with other people. Get small, get close, get personal. This chapter is not set up as adventures. They are more like 'how-to's assembled from many credible sources.

People Are Basically OK
We’re all in this life together.. No two people think or feel alike or want the same things at the same time. No one else knows what the world looks like from your point of view. Every person lives in a different personal world. We are each doing the best we can with what we have. We are unique, yet we are dependent on each other to get what we want.

We want people to see who we are and to accept that we are OK as we are. We must find ways to tell other people what we are seeing, thinking and feeling. We need their understanding. We need to learn about their problems and concerns as they see them. Then we can understand why they feel and act as they do. We can let people know we care and are offering support. We can find ways to make our words heard as caring rather than critical.

If we treat people as OK and give them space to be OK, they will generally return the favor. A good way to start is to trade places. Imagine putting yourself in the shoes of a person you must work with. Ask yourself, “What’s important to this person?” “What’s her expectation?” “What do my words mean to her?”

Everyone Matters
We all need to know that we matter to someone, that some other person has seen and accepted us as we are. We are looking for intimacy, not approval. When you listen to someone in an open, accepting way, they don’t need to fix themselves to get approval. They can be who they are. When you trust and express your uniqueness, you are a creative, masterful person. You can own your own truth and power while learning to work with people who are different.

Accept Differences
It is a big mistake to think anyone else should (or could) be like you. Every person is unique. Only our thoughts make differences between people. Putting people in pigeonholes allows you to think of them as pigeons or turkeys. The difference is in the label, not the person.

Give Up Trying To Change People
We all come into the world with a basic personality loaded into our brains. Early experience of home and family extends and enables it but does not change who we are. The core of our being is there for life. We learn to adapt to fit in with our family and peers. It makes sense to accept that people are going to do what they want to do. They’ll change when they are ready. You may lend a supportive ear but beware of offering advice or directions.

We come to see people through our expectations of who they are and what they will think and do. We tend to see people as we want them to be for us. We try to make them that way. Believe it or not, you can’t change someone’s point of view, Only they can. You can have a different point of view. You can express it in words and actions, sing it, act it out, put it on billboards. Sooner or  later, you have to let people come to their own conclusions. If they didn't get it, persuasion works better than power. You can try again or you might try to change yourself, rather than other people.

To make a relationship succeed, let's start by being positive, accepting, attentive and cooperative. Let's refrain from lying, gossiping, stealing or intentionally causing pain. Let's act with generosity, fix quarrels, speak calmly, rejoice in good things that happen. Let's pay attention to what people do, not what they say. Look at the results they get. Be neutral toward their demands or expectations.

Let's say someone is not doing what you think they should do. You may be annoyed with them. The problem is with your demands and expectations, not their behavior. Accept the way they are. Change your demands, give them up. Ask for what you want. Accept what they offer.

Give Up Worrying About What People Say
People comment. People criticize. It's hard to grow up not thinking we are screwing up. We’re not. The comment and criticism often say more about the other person’s character than about ours. What people say about you is a projection of their inner world. It says more about them than about you. In the same way, your judgments about others are more about what is going on with you than about them.

Accept people as they are, as they present themselves, maybe even as they pretend to be. Let them be. Respect their differences and they may respect and even enjoy yours. We can share our different histories, feelings thoughts, expectations and joys. We are no longer strangers.

Difference is not error. Everyone is different. Instead of trying to eliminate differences, we can make room for them. Instead of being critical or teasing, we can celebrate them. Difference is an opportunity to explore, to learn. There’s nobody out there but people like you only different.

Be A Model Of How You Want To Be Treated
Relationships are in and of the moment. When you respect and treat everyone equally, other people can be themselves and do their thing. You will learn more about them and how to enjoy being with them. They may return the acceptance and support. Be constructive, whether or not the other person is. Make what you want interesting and attractive so people will want to do it.

We connect and relate with each other through feelings. Morality is based on this empathy. We have an inborn morality based on what we most want for ourselves. That is attention, care, love, respect, trust. We do not want to be lied to, cheated, robbed or harmed. Religion, law and custom reinforce these impulses. We use social pressure to make sure everyone conforms. Approval and punishment are incentives.

Relationships are about now. They are not about rehearsing history or dramatizing a future. It works to listen to and support a persons story once. Gently decline to listen to repeated rehearsals or replays. Take responsibility for your own stuff. Keep it in mind that you are teaching people how to treat you by how you act. “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” That is the Golden Rule from the sages of many cultures.

Use The Power Of Your Attention
There is an economy of attention as there is for food or money. I have no power unless and until another person acknowledges it by paying attention. Trust is built on fairly sharing attention. In groups, attention moves around to reinforce the role and value of each member. Someone who takes more than their fair share is said to hog the limelight. Attention hogs are experienced as cheaters that need to be restrained or punished. The removal of attention is experienced as a loss, being left behind. Shunning, the removal of attention, is a severe punishment in most cultures. Share your attention freely. Get your fair share by sharing your own experiences and feelings.

Pay Attention To What People Do Rather Than What They Say
Behavior beats bullshit. When you see a difference between what a person says and what he does, what he does is what he means. When you think you know what someone intended, stop. Ask them what their intentions were. Honor them or not as you choose. At least now you know and can stop guessing.

To assume what another person is thinking or feeling is a mistake. It's a bigger mistake to act as if those assumptions are real.

“I know you don’t love me anymore.”

“Jesus, where did that come from?”

Putting a name on what someone says or does traps you into thinking you understand it. How can we know ‘why’ people do things or what they are thinking? We often don't that about ourselves. What matters is what you do and say now. Watch for the results of a person's actions, not for their demands or expectations. Then you can build understanding by sharing your thoughts and feelings with them.

When You Want Attention, Just Ask
It’s your job to tell people how you feel and what you want. If you’re feeling lonely, left out, empty, say so. Be specific about what you want. “I’d like to share this feeling.” “Listen to me.“ “Hold me.” Not asking definitely does'nt get it. Ask other people to be clear about their feelings and needs.

Listen Up
Listening is an act of love. Being heard by another person is a gift of love. Opening your heart while listening fills both of you with joy.

Listen with detachment. Stand back both from the other person’s dilemma and your own mental trip. When you get hooked on your friend’s situation, two people are feeling bad. Avoid getting sucked in. You help by hearing, not by getting on the emotional merry-go-round with him. When someone confides in you, they are looking for understanding, not answers.

You have two jobs, first to listen and then to show you understand. You can follow closely without interrupting or adding interpretations. Then, tell your friend what you heard. If you can name my feeling, I know you understand. 

Stay away from telling your friend what to think or do. Philosophy, amateur analysis, pity or your point of view just clouds the exchange. Advice, encouragement, assurances and comments are seldom useful. They get in the way of your friend’s exploring and sharing his feeling. You help the most by not helping at all, just listening with care.


• ‘why’ questions

• analysis

• helping

• band-aiding

People need to be heard and to come to their own conclusions. You can’t solve people’s problems for them. They can work things out for themselves. You can help by listening with full attention and sympathy. Limit what you say to asking for clarification or to showing you understand. Limit your contribution to what you’d be willing to have a friend say to you.

You can clarify by paraphrasing. “You seem to think...” “You sound like...” “You appear to be...” “As I get it, you...” “It must seem to you that...” Offer judgments only if the other person has asked and is ready to hear. Offer your judgment in a tentative way, “Maybe the reason is...”

Put the core of what you think he means or feels into a sentence or two. “What I’m getting is you like Jane a lot.” He’ll correct it or add on. Revise what you said and feed it back until he indicates that you understand. When you don’t understand, ask for clarification. “I got this much but not the rest.”

If you get off the track, stop. Go back to your last good understanding and start again. “I’m still with you. I know I don’t understand but I want to.” You know you are effective when he is not paying attention to you. He is going inward for experiences and feelings. He relaxes breathes deeply, sighs, confirms, “Yes, that’s it.” or sits up, smiles, says "You got it."

Sometimes silence is best. He may be trying to teach you how to be with him. Accept silences that come naturally. Don’t interrupt for one minute. Show you are still paying attention.

Feed back negatives. “So you have decided to slash your wrists because Jane went out with Bob?” Hearing how awful we sound often is enough. You can be supportive by responding to positive with positive. Look for opportunities to say something positive about the role he’s playing. Give him a new view of himself.

When you support and encourage other people's ideas, they stay committed. Let them own the idea and resist trying to improve on their idea unless they ask. Let other people be the winners. Let them have honest feedback and assimilate it. Work to make the people around you successful.

This has been all about someone else. What about me? We all need a friend, a sympathetic listener, to check out our ideas and provide support. It makes sense to find someone you trust and talk at least five minutes, twice a week about what is important to you.

Speak Out
Talk is the most dangerous thing in the world. When we speak to another person, our message we send is the literal meaning of the words we say. Yet, the heart of the meaning is how the other person hears and interprets our words. She will understand our message according to what she would mean or feel in the same situation.

The best practice is to talk to others as you would like to be talked to. Figure out how to present your message to yourself so you understand it and feel good about it. Words that work for you will work for other people.

If you want to get a message across fast, ask for one-way communication. “I’d like you to just listen for one minute.” Talk about how it is with you. Talk about your feelings. Don’t let your feelings go by, express them somehow. Be specific.

It’s OK to talk about yourself whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to know why you want to talk. It helps to tell your friend how you want to listened to.”I’d like you to put yourself in my place.” Keep saying ‘I’. It’s not selfish, it’s expressive and responsible. You won’t bore people, you’ll inform them.

It’s also OK to say negative things about yourself. People can stand what’s so. They already are. Talking openly about negative things doesn't make them worse. They are what you have to handle anyway.

Say What You Want, Then Everyone Will Know

When you feel a need to speak, start with ‘I’. “I want...” “I don’t like...” Explain why you are speaking. It will help your listener understand better. You can learn to say what you like or dislike without upsetting people. The key is to always talk about behavior. “I really enjoy you when...” “I’m uncomfortable when you...” “I felt angry when you...” “I felt surprised when you...”

Speak for yourself. Use words that make you the owner of your feelings and thoughts. “I saw... “I wanted...” “I think...”. Speaking for yourself makes it clear that you are self aware and responsible.

Say What You Think And Feel

Offer your point of view. “I think...” “It seems to me...” The more specific you are, the more effective you will be. Describing your experience creates a picture in your listener’s mind. They see something of what you see, hear and feel. Avoid evaluative words that tell others how they ought to feel. Watch out for the “you” that blames or generalizes. “You never make up your mind.” “You need a haircut.” You could make your friend feel trapped and resentful.

When you are angry, say so. Tell the person you are angry with. When you express your anger, you get to feel your anger and you are able to move to a place beyond it. When you bottle it up, you get to live with it and rehearse it over and over. People won’t die if you tell them about your resentments. Being honest about your anger is a way of sharing who you are.

Watch out for the “you” that makes the other person responsible for your feelings. “You make me mad.” Instead talk about his actions and your feelings or needs. “I get mad when you accuse me of something I did'nt do.” “I’d like you to make up your mind.” Make sure your tone is not blaming.

Talk About What You Are Doing
Actions can be misunderstood. Talk about what you did in the past, what you’re now doing and what you intend to do in the future. Tell people about your plans for the future so they know what to expect from you. Then, do what you say you’ll do. Keep your commitments. If you can’t keep them, tell people as soon as you know and tell them why.

To make a relationship succeed, let's start by behaving as if people were operating at their full potential. We can refrain from stealing, lying, gossiping or intentionally causing pain. We can act with generosity, fix quarrels, speak calmly, rejoice in the good things that happen. Pay attention to what people do, not what they say. Look at the results they get. We can let go of their demands or expectations.

Suppose someone is not doing what you think they should do. You may be blaming them. The problem could be with your demands and expectations, not their behavior. Change your demands, give them up. Accept the way the person is and make your peace with that. Ask for the behavior you want.

Keep Your Commitments

Make very few promises and keep them. Never pass the buck.

Take Responsibility

You are responsible for what you feel, think, say and do. If and when you try to make someone else responsible for you, you give up some of your power, putting you down and him up.

Build Trust With Openess And Honesty

Trust depends on people understanding and agreeing on what’s actually happening in the world. You can build trust by telling others what you actually see and hear going on. Try to leave out interpretations. Ask about other people's experience, feelings, thoughts, intentions and actions using open ended questions. “Could you say more about...” Listen carefully and accept what you hear. Stay in the present, dealing with what everyone is feeling and thinking now. Share your thoughts and feelings. The more feelings you disclose the closer you will become to other people.

Not Getting Along
 If you are not getting along with someone, you have reasons why. Usually they involve something the other person is doing or not doing. “Your ….... is making me unhappy.” “I would be happy if you would stop doing ….....” Try this. Make a list of the reasons or ways the other person is making you unhappy. Burn it. You are making yourself unhappy and using the other person's behavior as the reason. They are just doing stuff. You are using it to put yourself on a bummer trip. How could you change or let go of your story about the other person's behavior. Focus on the things the other person does that make you happy. Tell them. Reward them for doing these things.

Making Up The Other People
We see people through the veils of our own stories, needs and expectations. We assume the other person must be as we see them. If they act other than we expect, there must be something wrong with them. They need correcting or, even better, your help. The gates to Hell open when you open your mouth with advice.

Look at the people you know. You have an image in your head of who they are, how the act and what it means. The voice in your head tells you these things. You made up this image from your observations and interpretations.  You included what other people told you. It is too limited. Everyone you know has an image of who you are, also incomplete and distorted. You are making each other up.

Everyone you are with is building some kind of story in their thoughts about who you are. The person is looks at what you are doing or saying. They make up a story and decide what it means to them. Then they react. This is delusional. Almost none of this is based on fact. Consider this. You willing to shape your actions by what you imagine are the opinions of a person who is making up stories that are delusional? Is that crazy, or what?

When you hear “You are...” and especially “You are always..." you are hearing about a picture of you that the speaker holds in his brain. The statement is about him and how he thinks about you. Listen, politely, consider what he says but know that it isn't you. It's telling you about what is going on in his or her head. Be aware that what you hear is mostly about them, not you.

“You are standing on my foot.” is talking about somebody's behavior. “You are always so mean to me.” is talking about self imposed victimhood and delusion. Of course, we do the same thing. We observe another person’s words and actions and interpret them. We imagine what the person is thinking, what their opinion of us is, then we react.


You hurt my feelings.”

“Look what you made me do!”

“You don’t think of anyone but yourself.”

“Why do you always screw up?”

“You always blame everything on me.”

“Tati stole my Green Eggs and Ham.”
“Did not.”
“Ellie made me hurt her.”

Blaming gets used because it works. Blaming is a power play. It puts the blamer in control and the blamee on the defensive. The blamer avoids responsibility. A blamer assumes power by making other people wrong. If we accept the blame, even just to consider it, we validate his power. Blamers must continue blaming to keep control. Refusing to play the game strips away his power. Blaming produces anger and confusion. Blaming is a sign of insecurity behind a mask of power. Blaming a blamer guarantees a fight. You are pulling their covers. Don’t get caught up in blaming. Avoid the game.

Blaming can be the result of misinterpretation. What works is looking at someone’s actions and telling them what that looks and feels like to you. “When you shout and wave your arms around, I think you are imitating Coach Barney.” Then give them a chance to say what their intentions were. Instead of “You are...” or “You did...” “I saw...” “I think...” “I feel...” When you describe behavior, don't assume anything about what it means.

Let's say someone is not doing what you think they should do. You are blaming them. The problem could be with your demands and expectations. Change your demands, give them up. Accept the way the other person is and make your peace with that.

Be clear. If you think the source of your bad feeling is outside yourself, STOP! Take responsibility. You are doing stuff and having thoughts and feelings. You are making the chemistry that produces the feeling by something you think or do. Let's say you are blaming a person for making you feel bad. You are using their behavior as an excuse. Let's say you are blaming God, the Devil, fate, karma or someone else for your feelings or behavior. You are not taking responsibility for yourself .

It’s what you do that matters. As long as you are blaming another person for your situation, you can’t change it. You put them in control. Drop the blame. See what you can do to change your thoughts and feelings.

Accept the present, it is what it is. Blaming doesn't change what is. Blaming makes you a helpless victim. As long as you are blaming, you are screwed. If you take responsibility for your results, you open up possibilities and choices. You can take action and change the result.

When a whining, blaming victim is in action, it may help to say to him or her:

“I hear you. My experience is different. I have different thoughts and feelings that I will take responsibility for. What I would like to see happen is this.”

Relationships: Work It Out Or Walk Away
Relationships are about being who you are while being with another person. They’re also about sharing and caring. All relationships include a contract to give a little of yours to get more for both. To get what you want, you have to share yourself with another person. You want to talk about your thoughts, preferences  and feelings. You want to be heard.

The more communication, the better the relationship. It is a mistake to assume that you know what another person is thinking or feeling. To build a strong bond, tell your partner what you expect of her or him. Hold nothing back. Find out now if there is any major, nonnegotiable demand either of you has that the other is unwilling to meet.

Relationships are about control; self-control and partner control. Equality is an ideal, yet all relationships tend to be unbalanced. One person usually can make demands and have them met while the other accedes. Ways of talking create power by establishing status. Telling someone what to do is a control measure. Giving advice, suggesting changes and making observations can get heard as caring or critical. In a hierarchy, every relationship is a power struggle, you are one up or one down. The person above has obligations to protect and support. The person below gets safety and submission. In equality, no one is dominant. This ideal gets established through talk and actions then honored in practice.

Relationships need both closeness and distance. Too close and you feel suffocated, invaded, overwhelmed. Too distant and you feel abandoned, left out, cut off. You must stick to it long enough to find out what works and what doesn't. Could take years. You must be willing to walk away from an unsatisfying relationship.

Relationships are now, in and of the moment. They are not about rehearsing history or dramatizing a future. Listen to and support a person’s story once. Gently decline to listen to repeated rehearsals or replays. Some people make a profession out of retelling their dramas and miseries. There is no benefit to them or you in listening to the tape repeat. Take responsibility for letting go of your own woes.

You have to teach your partner about yourself. Tell her how you like to be treated. Tell him what you can’t handle. Get agreement on what both of you feel is fair. Stick to the agreement. Try to set up positive conditions. “It will work better for me if, you...” If you want a particular action in your relationship, do it or ask for it and reinforce it so you get it again. If you don’t want it, don’t do it or just say so.

Conversations depend on trust. When a problem comes up, take a breath, step back and try to find out what’s bothering him. Don’t ask questions designed to prove the other person wrong out of their own mouth. Stick to the main point. Focus on what is at issue. Be explicit about your end point. Ignore sidetracks. Don’t exaggerate to dramatize a point. Forget insults or name calling. Insist that people state their points clearly. Make a proposition by putting ideas together in a logical way to persuade someone of your point of view. Beats arguing.

Honor apologies. It’s easy to make a mistake and apologize. Apologies are a sign of self awareness and self confidence, not weakness. “I’m sorry.” means, “I regret.” Demanding an apology is a power maneuver. Point that out and refuse.

Finally, all parties should say what they understand and have agreed on.

What works is taking turns.  You may find alternatives that please you both. You can balance differences against the desire to be together. What doesn't work is vacillating, postponing, coercing, deluding, undermining, accusing and evaluating. “If you loved me, you’d do what I want.” Another thing that doesn't work is letting disagreements go underground and become covert. Disappointed expectations collapse more relationships than anything else. “I expected this of you as a friend, lover, whatever.”

In the end, the only thing that works is treating other people as you would have them treat you. More important, do not treat people as you would not have them treat you.

Most of what we are doing is working well enough to keep us alive. We need to let go of what isn't working or is holding us back. Then let's become clear about what we need and will find fulfilling tomorrow. Finally, we can take actions that lead there. What would 'there' be like for you?

©2012-2018 Keith Gilchrist - not for distribution or reproduction

4,866 words 12 pages 2.15.17 adv 0 Beta 1 rev

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