Difficult? Who, Me?

We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to remove, or mitigate the impact of, those difficult people in our lives. Let’s face it – their presence drives us crazy sometimes, and we’d like them to just either go away or be different!

This week I was reminded about our filters on the world, Secret Number One in my book, “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior.” I was reminded when I found myself being the difficult person. It was a bit of a cosmic joke, I think, because in my book I wrote about a neighbor of mine who was speeding through the neighborhood. I was so mad until I saw that it was a friend of mine. This week I was that speeding person! I was so late to get my oldest to an appointment and found myself doing 40 mph through a residential neighborhood. When I rounded the corner, there was a good friend of mine stuck with a disabled car. She started to yell at me about driving so fast until she saw who it was! We laughed and laughed about the absurdity (she has read my book!).

After I got over my embarrassment for being “one of those people,” I reflected on how life works like this. It’s so easy for me to point the finger at someone else, but all too often I find myself doing exactly what I am so upset about when another person does it! Secret Number Five, “I’m okay but you are definitely not okay,” talks about this. We often don’t feel as good about ourselves as we’d like to, so we look elsewhere to find other people who are doing it wrong. If THEY are wrong, then WE are okay – right? Only the truth is that we all reflect pieces of ourselves to others, and they to us. If we’re honest, we may often find ourselves perpetrating exactly what we rail against!

I observe this when I hear two people fighting over religion or politics – the “hot” subjects. While they believe they are diametrically opposed, so much of what is said is similar but coming through a different filter on the world. Now many people who are entrenched in their own position (check your filter!) will argue with me that there aren’t any similarities at all. It’s only when we peel back the cover, the anger, and the distaste for one another that we can find this. When I was interviewed on a radio show this week (The Burke Allen Show), he asked me how I would advise the politicians in Washington. My answer? “Find the common ground.” There are some commonalities that run through every position no matter which side you are on, but we don’t focus on those; we focus on our opposition and therefore we spend more time fighting than problem-solving!

Fundamentally it does come down to kindness and compassion for other human beings. We would rather point the finger and keep people at a distance sometimes than seek to understand what’s happening with them and why they are who they are, and do what they do. It’s not that we find all opinions, behaviors and approaches “okay” (the truth is that driving 40 mph where children are playing is NOT a good thing no matter who you are!), but it is trying to peel back and understand what’s underneath. To quote one of my favorite songs by Buddy Guy, the blues singer,
“Things been always black and white
Just like you can’t judge a book by the cover
We all gotta be careful
How we treat one another
Skin Deep
Underneath we’re all the same
We’re all of the same.”