By Patricia: What does it take to build a strong relationship with others? One of the hardest parts about building a relationship, whether it is a new one or one that has been established for years, is acceptance, simply accepting the person for who and what they are. This is the basis for all strong relationships, whether the relationship is with a friend, a partner, a family member, or a co-worker.
One very important thing to remember is that, unless they are wearing diapers (nappies), we can’t change them. The only one we can change is ourselves. Yet we insist on trying to change others to become what we want them to be. This is a guaranteed path to frustration and anger. My father used to say that we make up people to be who we want them to be, and then get mad at them when they turn out to not be that person. This is so true.
So, what do we do? In order to decide, we first need to take a good look at the other person and learn who they really are. Everyone has good points and bad points. The hard part is to take a step back and see them clearly, not through the preconception of who we want them to be. If you know who they really are, it is easier to accept them as they are. Once you know who they really are, it will be much harder for them to disappoint you. I have a friend that I can depend on in any crisis – she will come to get me if my car breaks down, she will comfort me if I am grieving. However, if I discuss something I want kept private, she will absolutely tell everyone. I can either get angry at her for spreading my private business all over the internet, or I can accept that she is who she is, and not tell her anything I want kept private. By accepting that gossip is a weakness for her, I keep her as a friend, knowing her for who she really is. And I won’t be disappointed and angry when she does spread gossip; it is just her being herself. (And if there is something I want everyone to know, she is my go-to person.)
Once we have looked clearly at a person and have seen who they really are, we have a choice to make. Are there good points worth putting up with the bad points? Because the truth is, if you know someone is a gossip, you really can’t be mad at them for gossiping. You knew they were going to do it. If you know a person has anger issues, you can’t be mad at them for getting angry. If you want to keep the person in your life, you need to accept their faults along with their strengths. Does that mean you tolerate abuse? Absolutely not. Acceptance does not mean tolerating bad behavior. It means you know they will behave that way. If the behavior is unacceptable, you need to remove yourself from that situation. If a person’s anger issues include getting violent, you can accept that they will behave that way, while making sure you are nowhere near them when they are angry. That may mean you cut them out of your life entirely, even though you accept that being violent is what they do.
Nor does acceptance make bad behavior tolerable. Again, acceptance is knowing who the person really is. It does not mean condoning their bad behavior. It does mean that you do not need to be angry with them for the behavior, or hurt by it. You don’t need to have any response to the behavior beyond either being with them or not being with them. If the bad parts are completely unacceptable to you, then your best choice is to cut your losses and remove yourself from the relationship, in so far as it is possible. This can be a very difficult choice to make. Sometimes, you cannot walk away from the person; if they are a co-worker or a family member, you may have to tolerate them, at least for a time. You may have to accept the behavior, even if it is abhorrent, while trying to minimize your contact with them. If the behavior is violent, there is no question – leave immediately and find help. I left a job because the behavior of the owner of the company was completely unacceptable to me. I made the transition as smooth as possible, but I did have to accept unacceptable behavior for a time until I could find a new job. It is hard, but it can be done, while you find a way to remove yourself.
Accepting people for who they really are is an incredibly freeing process. The better you know any person, the less their behavior will have the capacity to hurt you. You don’t end up frustrating both yourself and them by trying to change behavior they don’t want to change. Your time with them can be spent on doing things you both enjoy instead of being wasted on trying to address behavior that isn’t going to change. You are completely free to enjoy the best parts of that person while not being hurt by the things you don’t like about them. And, on the other hand, if the person does want to change any given behavior, your acceptance of them as they are can enable you to better help them change without nagging at them to change. Nagging never has a positive outcome for anyone.
Acceptance is one of the most important things we can learn in our lives. Acceptance will make our friendships stronger, our relationships with our loved ones more meaningful, and our lives happier. When we learn to accept others, it helps us to accept ourselves. If we clearly see our own behavior, it is easier to decide what we want to change. Once we decide to change the behavior, we can do so without judging ourselves. When we don’t judge ourselves, we don’t have to wade through guilt and remorse before we can address the behavior we don’t like. This makes our relationship with ourselves better and stronger, and we become better, stronger, happier people. Acceptance is the key.
Love and Light,