Working Out Differences

Working Out Differences. Psychology Fanatic article header image

We can’t please everybody, nor should we try. But this doesn’t suggest we carelessly ignore feelings—others matter. While seeking personal gratifications, we must maintain awareness of impacts our behaviors have on others. No man is an island. If we are willing to succeed at any cost, we might find, in time, we are painfully alone. A well-connected person mindfully examines behaviors, evaluating the consequences of those behaviors—not just personal benefits but also wide spread costs to others. In the course of coming to know others, we realize we are different in many areas. Connections requires working through these differences.

Human interaction is complex. We act in response to other’s actions and they act in response to us; this cycle continues. Memories of past interactions influence are prediction of meanings and responses. If certain actions were not well-received in the past, or ignited a powerful response, this information lives in the present—not necessarily consciously or even logical.

Books on Working Out Differences in Relationships

Our social interactions are complex because it involves other humans with their own lives, wants, feelings, and dreams. Basically, humans are different from each other and any level of intimacy requires facing and working through differences. David A. Shultz and Stanley F. Rogers wrote, “people tend not to like to discover significant differences between themselves and others, particularly those with whom they enter into partnerships.” The discovered differences gives rise to fear. We feel a need to judge which way or characteristic is better (1985).

Differences create the environment ripe for judgement. However, just because someone’s unique experiences exist outside our knowledge doesn’t devalue the importance of their experience. Ignoring others because of differences in our pursuits destroys relationships—often connections essential for security and healthy.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

~​Audre Lorde

Mindfulness of Different Experiences

​Mindfulness during crucial interactions alerts to missed information that we may have previously overlooked. Mindfulness requires drawing more than the automatic, purposely seeking alternative and deeper meanings behind an interaction. Only through mindful examination do we understand enough, and see clearly enough, that we can work out differences.

We must skeptically examine invoked emotions and initial responses, not simply accepting we acted appropriately and protecting with well-worded justifications. This is a process of self-enlightenment. Mindful living requires openness to corrections and adjustments. We may be wrong. Gasp.

Our social interactions are complex because it involves other humans with their own lives, wants, feelings, and dreams.

~T. Franklin Murphy

Our Labels

We just can’t get away from our all-encompassing labels. We want to smash everyone into small definable groups. Labeling is a normal process of the mind. No matter how hard we try, we continue to label. Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Harvard University, wrote, “categorizing is a fundamental and natural human activity. It is the way we come to know the world. Any attempt to eliminate bias by attempting to eliminate the perception of differences may be doomed to fail. We will not surrender our categories easily. When we cease to make any particular distinction among people, we will probably make another one” (2014).

Have you ever noticed that once you get to know someone from a different group that they don’t seem like everyone else from that group? It’s not the person that’s different than their group; it’s our limited perception of the characteristics of the other group. Our definition is wrong. Often a significant step in working our differences unveils the fact the differences are not that different after all.

Groups that share some ideals also differ in infinite ways. We are different—all of us. When we don’t see the differences in members of other groups, we are blind. We need to first see, then appreciate.

“We go on and on about our differences. But, you know, our differences are less important than our similarities. People have a lot in common with one another, whether they see that or not.”

​~William Hall

A Few Words By Psychology Fanatic

By compassionately recognizing others as important, including their feelings as part of our decisions, we become part of a larger whole, creating a richer more connected life. We are not required to please everyone. This is impossible. But compassionate people do not act indifferently towards others despite inherent differences. They accept the differences and work through them. They understand the ties to the world, acting ethically and responsibly. And for their troubles, they are rewarded with a richer more fulfilling life.

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Langer, Ellen J. (2014). Mindfulness. Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Schulz, David A., & Rodgers, Stanley F. (1985). Marriage, the Family, and Personal Fulfillment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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