Recently a sweet friend said this about me: “You are kind, thoughtful, and can get along with anyone; you make people know their worth.” It was a sincere compliment that touched me to my core. I mean, who wouldn’t want words like that said about them??
But it left me more than humbled because although there was a time I might have agreed with her (chronic people pleaser here!), I have since become a different person. I’m still kind, I avoid conflict like the plague and I carry a great deal of empathy in my back pocket like packs of shareable chewing gum.
But as I got older and life started changing for me, I saw myself changing, too. I know change can be a good thing, but I didn’t always like this new person I was turning into. She wasn’t a difficult person to get along with, she just seemed more aloof, less inclined to sincerity, and that openness she once shared felt harder to access.
I think sometimes, especially as moms, we are giving so much of ourselves, there’s little left for anyone else. And with everyone under the sun having an opinion on how “you’re doing it wrong”, sometimes you just get to a point where you no longer care what people think. #transparency
But, at the end of the day, we do care. Or else, we wouldn’t be looking up how to get along with other people. Regardless of our personality, each relationship is important to us in some way. And we have to cultivate them if we want enduring connections.
With an open mind, some motivation, and a genuine smile, anyone can learn the skill of getting along with even the most difficult of personality types.
Practical suggestions for getting along with anyone:
- Put yourself in their shoes.
- Be OK with differences.
- Know there are two sides to every story.
- Learn to find the good.
- Love on others.
- Learn to be a listener.
- Surround yourself with people who mirror these traits.
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
Growing up, I was always labeled the nice one. Whether that was because I hated controversy and did whatever it took to help everyone get along, or because I was tender-hearted…I’m not really sure.
But if I had to guess, it was because I knew what it was like to be misunderstood. For most of my pre-teen and teen years, I hid a secret life of abuse from my family and even my closest friends.
My feeble attempts at coping were mistaken for teenaged rebellion and my teen years were incredibly rocky. It wasn’t until I went to college and met my husband that I was able to start the healing process and open up about my past.
So when I am confronted with someone I just can’t seem to get along with, all I have to do is think back to what it felt like for me as a teenager and regardless of why this person and I can’t connect, I find myself feeling a commonality with them.
Because the truth of the matter is, we don’t know anyone’s story. We might think we can read a person and know why they are the way they are, but we don’t know what a person might be hiding behind their angry words or rough facade.
And those are the people who need the most kindness. So when we are struggling to get along with someone, the first thing we can do is mentally live in their world for a time or at the very least, understand there’s much more to a person then they might first lead us to believe.
2. Be ok with differences.
It was a rough day when I realized not everyone thinks like me and I’m supposed to be ok with it. Having kids who are so different from one another and trying to referee between all the different personality types under my roof has made me more appreciative of the different ways people think from one another.
One thing that has helped in our family is communication. Having an open dialogue is not the “end all, be all” but it has been a huge step towards not only maintaining the happiness in our home but in also teaching our girls the importance of getting along with others.
For me, personally, whenever someone frustrates me or we clash in some way or another, remembering we are ALL made in God’s image helps me refocus my mind. I mean, what if those attributes I find most annoying, are the very things that mirror God in that person?
Besides, there isn’t a person in this whole wide world who I get along with perfectly. Not even my best friend and husband, Steve. And I know there isn’t a person alive who would love every single aspect of me, either.
We don’t have to LOVE everything about everyone, but being ok with the fact we think and act differently can go a long way towards getting along and being more thoughtful of others.
3. There are two sides to every story.
My husband has a superpower. Seriously. He has the uncanny gift of seeing both sides of a story. Because of this, he makes an excellent police officer, a great dad, and a horrible person to argue with. (Just kidding, we never argue!) 😉
I admit I am the first person to jump to conclusions and throw things all out of proportion when I feel wronged. Steve, on the other hand, can list all the reasons why a person might have acted a certain way or done a particular thing. While I hate that logic when I’m venting, he’s an angel for saving me from a serious misunderstanding time and again. Because he is usually always right.
Usually, this is because I act on emotion and Steve looks for the truth in every situation. Which probably saved our marriage when I was on a hormone cream that altered my easy-going personality into someone quite scary, to put it nicely. Thankfully, my husband recognized something wasn’t right and we were able to pinpoint the problem and fix it.
We really never know what situations might influence behavior (See point 1), so, giving someone the benefit of the doubt goes a long way in helping us to get along with others!
And, I’d like to add, if you are struggling in a relationship with someone, whether it be a relative, coworker, or someone you barely know, remembering that you don’t have to make a point or prove your point, can change everything.
Even if you have a compelling argument, does it really matter in the end? In ten years, will it matter who was right or will this conflict resolve anything or change anyone’s mind? Sometimes, it’s just best to agree to disagree and keep said relationship than say your peace and lose a friend.
4. Learn to find the good.
When I worked on a farm as a teenager, we would sell corn on the side of the highway. We kept busy, especially during rush hour when people were heading home from work.
After working the stand for about a week, I noticed a pattern amongst my customers, especially nearing the end of the day. Almost everyone got out of their car with the same facial expression that told me they were tired, irritable, and ready to be home. It was in their body language as they made their way to the cart. It was in the curt way they answered my greeting and their lack of conversation.
I couldn’t blame them. I was tired, too. Being up at the crack of dawn to head to the fields to pick sweet corn for several hours before heading out into the heat of the day to sell on the side of the road made for a very exhausting day.
But I didn’t want my customers leaving the same way they came in. So, I made a game of it. I challenged myself to make every single customer smile before leaving. Out of the hundreds of people I came into contact with every summer, only 2-3 left without a smile. I called that a success!
And it was a pretty great feeling, too, watching each person change in front of my eyes with just a sincere compliment on their earrings or a well-placed comment about a person’s vehicle, etc.
I ALWAYS smiled, even when they wouldn’t return the gesture, and maintained eye contact as we talked. I’m telling you, even the roughest people were smiling at the end of our little transaction. And they came back the following week and for years afterward.
The truth of the matter is, when we take the time to look for the good in people, we can usually find it.
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5. Love on others.
When I was in college, I decided that no matter who I got as a roommate, we were going to get along. I had wonderful roommates! One is my best friend to this day and another is now my sister-in-law who I love very much.
I can only imagine I wasn’t the best roommate all the time, but I really wanted to make the school year a smooth one, and a little bit of pre-planning and lots of selflessness can really go a long towards effectively loving others.
One thing I did for many of my roommates is to leave them little tokens. I started doing this before I ever met them. I was always the first one moving into the room since I stayed every summer, so I would leave a gift on the empty bed of my prospective roommate, and by the time I returned from work, she already had a positive impression of me.
(Going to college? This article has some great tips for getting along with roommates!)
Years later I was able to teach my girls how to do this when they came home from school nervous about a certain teacher(s). After a short talk about giving people a chance, I helped them put together a goody bag and a kind note for each one and enjoyed watching a new relationship blossom between each teacher and my kid.
One such teacher ended up being a big help to my youngest when she struggled with anxiety over my getting cancer. We just never know who we are going to need in life and if we aren’t willing to go the extra mile with people, we might be missing out on someone special.
6. Learn to be a listener.
I struggle with this one. I am excellent at communicating at eye level and keeping my vocal pace appropriate, and I genuinely want to hear what someone has to say, but I struggle with truly LISTENING. I’m talking about the art of hearing what a person is really saying behind their words.
My sister, Amy, is a master at interpersonal relationships. Random strangers are always telling her their hearts and before long, she knows everyone’s life story. It’s crazy! But it’s because she has the gift of listening and making that person feel listened to.
How many times have you felt close to someone because they stopped their world to hear what you had to say and made you feel like the only person who mattered? I know I have a few people in mind. But I also want to BE that person, too.
7. Surround yourself with people who mirror these traits.
We’ve been told since childhood that we are who we hang with. It’s true. Too many times I end up saying and doing things I rather regret all because of who I was with at that time. Our friend’s influence can and does affect us even when we may not realize it.
So if we are wanting to get better at our people skills, we aren’t going to want to hang out with someone who sees the negative in everyone. That attitude is a dime a dozen and only pulls our own down with it.
But finding someone who makes us feel like a better person after being around them, those are the true gems in this world. Sometimes being around those kinds of people can feel a bit uncomfortable but only because they are like a mirror, and we become aware of areas we can improve. But even though growing pains are uncomfortable, the growth is worth it!
This applies to social media, too. A purge every once in a while can be highly beneficial to our mental health and our attitudes. You don’t even have to unfriend anyone, unfollowing works just as well.
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.