Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Be a Peacemaker

Nope. That's not it.

What I am talking about is how to get along with people, and how to not get upset or mad at people. This is an important concept for me and I hope you find use in it.

The main principle is to learn how to blame the universe when things go wrong, instead of blaming other people (especially those we love--though this applies to other drivers on the road, etc.).

In my experience, very few people in the world actually enjoy causing harm to other people.  These people are called sadists, and I doubt if I have ever met one. The only exceptions I perceive are instances in which a person feels harmed first, and then desires vengeance.

Principle 1.  If someone harms you because they feel you harmed them first, you should find a way to talk to that person. While it may take some control over our natural reflexes, a sincere apology in these situations can be powerful. Additionally, if the lines of communication are open, then we can often make amends in these situations by understanding the next principle.

Principle 2. Misunderstandings occur when two or more people do not adequately understand why each other thinks or behaves in the way that they do. Given the time (and required patience), misunderstandings can be overcome through open communication.

We may wonder, "if people are not sadists and I did no harm to them, then why did they choose to cause me harm?" Harm most often comes in the form of hurt feelings--these can be feelings of rejection, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, etc.

Hurt Scenario 1. Someone did not think about our needs before they acted.

In this case, we may ask questions like "How do you think that makes me feel?" The fact of the matter is that no one in the world thinks about your feelings more than you do. No matter how important you are to someone and no matter how much they love and adore you, there will always be times when they neglect to consider your feelings as fully as you do.

This leads to Hurt Scenario 2. Someone had to make a tough decision that did not maximize YOUR happiness.

We live in a world of scarcity. We cannot maximize the happiness of everyone we care about with every decision that we make. Many decisions in life will have clear "winners" and "losers", but these decisions cannot be avoided. For example, a married couple must decide each Christmas if they are going to spend time with extended family. If they choose to spend time with His family, then Her family misses out and visa versa. If they choose something else (assuming it infeasible to bring both sides of the family together), then both families lose.

Perhaps if we had more time, we could consider every possible decision that we make and come up with the choices that will always benefit everyone--or cause the least harm. Many decisions, however, must be made on the fly. I suspect that MOST of our decisions must necessarily be knee-jerk reactions simply because we lack the time and energy to deliberate at every moment (note: this begins to highlight the importance of developing good habits... a topic for another post).

The result is that many of the day-to-day choices that we are forced to make may cause harm to those around us. Sometimes we do things that may hurt others or cause them to feel unloved, but we do so not out of malice. The fact that our decisions cause harm is often a matter of pure happenstance.

Conclusion.  With this in mind, we must understand that sometimes (often) the universe is not fair to us. We (or those whose decisions affect us) are put into positions in which perfect outcomes are unreasonable or impossible. We may get frustrated that things do not go our way, and our reflex may be to subconsciously project that frustration onto others who are involved. But hurt is rarely their intention or their fault. The trick is to learn to be frustrated with the universe, and to still love (and not resent) the people whom the universe required to make the decisions that ultimately hurt us.