I was very recently showered with compliments by a sweet friend. She told me I was “kind, thoughtful and get along with everyone; I make people I talk to know their worth.” Wow! What a thing to say about someone—about me!
Although I do not feel I live up to her words, she got me thinking. Those thoughts led me to jot down a full page of notes which then led to this post.
Because we all struggle with this area, right? None of us are kind all the time? Most of the time?
I know I’m not, no matter what my friend thinks. In fact, ever since having three kids and entering into my 30’s, I struggle with being thoughtful more than I ever have. A lot of times, I don’t care what people think. #transparency
But, at the end of the day, I do care. Like I tell our daughters, it’s not how someone else responds that matters, it’s how YOU respond. I cannot act in a manner befitting who I aim to be if I go around pretending I could care less.
So, here are some things that have helped me get along with others, in all walks of life:
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
I used to think being kind was just a result of who I was. Kindness was always a default of mine because I hate controversy, arguments—anything that causes division. If I know you are mad at me, I’ll be sick over it until we’re friends again. It’s how I’ve always been.
But that shouldn’t make me kinder than the next person—if anything, it often makes me a pushover, which isn’t what we are going for here.
If I had to pick one thing that influences me most in my dealings with others, it would have to be my experience as a teenager. When I was considered the bad girl, the one who my friend’s moms insisted they not to hang out with. When I was always getting into trouble and carried a tough facade everywhere I went. The one who was dealing with things no one else knew about, not even my parents.
When I think about judging someone for their behavior, all I have to do is think back to what it felt like then. How it hurt to be so misunderstood. Because I still had a tender heart underneath that hardened outer layer. And those who irk me, have one, too.
We don’t know anyone’s story. We don’t know what they are hiding behind their angry words. If anything, those are the ones who need kindness the most.
HOMEWORK: The next time someone bothers you, don’t respond. Instead, try to imagine more than one scenario that could have caused their actions. (ex. stretched finances, sick family member, a job loss, falling out with a friend) This little exercise almost always diffuses the situation.
2. Be ok with differences.
It was a rough day when I realized not everyone thinks like me. They should, 🙂 but they don’t. And I need to be ok with that.
Remembering we are ALL made in God’s image helps me get along with those not like me. I mean, what if those attributes I find most annoying, are the very things that mirror God in that person? Might be enough incentive to look at that person differently.
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 act and think differently should make it easier for us to be more thoughtful towards others.
HOMEWORK: When a person’s differences affect you negatively, list some ways their attributes would be useful. (ex. An incessant chatterer would make an excellent encourager for someone who is lonely whereas opinionated people often become useful decision makers.) These “annoying” attributes may be tailor-made for their unique purpose in life.
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 cop, a great dad, and a horrible person to argue with. (Just kidding, we never argue!) 😉
I am the first person to jump to conclusions and throw things all out of proportion. Steve, on the other hand, could list 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 making a fool of myself. Because he is usually right.
We really never know what situations might have influenced a behavior. (See point 1)
Once, for a whole week, I became the Wicked Witch of the West all because of a hormone cream I was taking. I was beyond awful. Ask my in-laws who sadly got front row seats for an entire day. Thankfully, they recognized I wasn’t myself and no lasting damage was done. But I can’t say that about a couple of people who crossed my path during that volatile week. I still cringe when I think about it.
So, giving someone the benefit of the doubt goes a long way in helping us to get along with others!
HOMEWORK: You could mirror the homework for point 1 or list some things you experience throughout the day that can turn your mood sour. You might be surprised how many things there are. If we struggle with them, chances are, someone else is, too. (ex. behind on housework, accumulating bills, packed schedule)
4. Learn to find the good.
When I used to work on a farm as a teenager, we would sell corn on the side of the highway. Needless to say, we kept busy. Especially during rush hour when people were heading home from work.
One thing I noticed was how grumpy people seemed to be at the end of the day. So, I made a game of it. I challenged myself to make every single customer smile before leaving me. Out of the hundreds of people I came into contact with every summer, only 2-3 left without a smile.
All it took was a sincere compliment. (LOVE your earrings! Nice car! Ooh, what perfume are you wearing; you smell amazing!) I ALWAYS smiled, even when they wouldn’t return the gesture. And I looked everyone in the eyes. 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.
When you take the time to look for the good in people, you usually find it.
HOMEWORK: Have someone you struggle to get along with? List their good traits and focus on them through compliments and encouragement. Those good traits might influence the not-so-great ones if only someone nurtured them. (ex. Are they giving? Do they have good ideas? Are they creative?)
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. This decision to get along with roomies was not always easy, however.
Sometimes, it took a great deal of selflessness. Now, I KNOW I wasn’t the perfect roommate, but the methods I used to get along with the people I would spend nine months, are the same ones I use to this day for those I come into contact with.
One thing I did for many of my roommates is to leave them little tokens of love. I started 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 and by the time I returned from work, my new roommate already loved me. 🙂
Fast forward a few years…a daughter or two would return from the first day of school with the fear a certain teacher didn’t like them. I helped that child get together a goody bag and a kind note for that person. It never failed, that teacher and my daughter always ended the year very close.
I’m not talking about sucking up to a person, but loving on them. There’s a big difference and one works wonders on both your hearts while the other just makes you more selfish.
HOMEWORK: Make someone a goody bag or buy a gift card; include an encouraging note. Give them to someone who really needs the encouragement. (ex. a grumpy co-worker; the rude person you run into every day; the neighbor you never see smile)
6. Learn to be a listener.
I struggle with this one. I am excellent at eye contact and genuinely wanting 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 is a master at this. Random strangers are always telling her their hearts. 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 entire world to hear what you had to say and made you feel like the only person who matters? I know I have a few people in mind. But I also want to BE the person who makes others feel that way.
HOMEWORK: Start with eliminating distractions. Giving your full attention is powerful. It makes the person feel like they are important enough for you to focus on, even though you may have other things to do. (ex. set down your phone; sit beside them; ask questions about what they are saying)
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. Their influence can and does affect us even when we may not realize it.
I’m so thankful the friends I spend the most time with are those who outshine me in so many areas. They challenge me to live better. I love walking away from them feeling good about the time we spent together.
Because it hasn’t always been that way with my choice of friends. I have had those with whom I frequented, where I felt ashamed of my behavior when I was around them. Changing the crowd I ran with was the best thing I could have done.
That does not mean you cannot still be friends with everyone, just be selective with who has a good portion of your time.
HOMEWORK: You may not always be able to control who you are around (work, family, etc), so practice being the kind of person you want to surround yourself with. Maybe your influence can help others in a positive way. We should strive to leave people better than when we found them. (ex. Simply practicing these 7 points will start you in the right direction!)
What about you? What helps you get along with people? Tell me all about it in the comments below!