Sometimes I like to think, “Can’t we all just get along?” Other times, especially with everything in the news these days, I wonder at the naiveté of such thinking. We all have our personal interests, desires and goals – “what we want” out of the moment, the day, and our lives. How can we expect others with their own interests to be open to ours?
Well, there is the congregation of interests, finding like-minded people. Yet, as a group, we find the same problem in not getting along with other groups who think or act differently. Whether the relationship is two people, a family, a city, nationwide, or global, we can convince ourselves – justifiably or not – to not respect the rights or beliefs of others.
But, is there something wrong with the person or group we don’t get along with, or are they simply trying to possess what they want (like the rest of us)? A colleague of mine has suggested that bad people do evil things because they like being evil. Yet, could it simply be a weaker party fighting in order to leave their situation or get stronger? Is it just that the methods they use sometimes make us shudder?
On a basic level, “others” are often looking for the same things we are. However, what “they” want for themselves may take things away from us and this does not feel good. We feel harmed when something is taken from us and it makes sense to try to stop others from doing so. Defending ourselves makes sense; yet, doing so can also lead to harming others, which is not so good.
Situations can escalate quickly.
If we have more strength, we may feel comfortable battling those we do not get along with. We may consider imposing our desires and goals on them. We can get what we want and may not worry about treading on others.
There is nothing saying we need to like each other to be able to get along with one another. Respecting others does not require liking or agreeing with someone different. Although some things cannot be shared and someone often ends up going home unhappy, compromise is really not an evil word.
Understanding what others want and why they want it will help.
At this moment in history, we may seem angrier than we have at times in the past. A closer look would show pretty horrible periods in the past and the current anger in the world is more of a building wave of anger that tends to increase and decrease over time.
Can we all get along? Likely not – although it would be nice to get along better – be more civil, respectful. Perhaps I am being naïve, but we can learn to respect “others” by trying to understand why they act and believe differently from us. We still may not agree with them and we do not need to, but it could make for our own better moments, days, and lives.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.