Connecting with others may be one of the most important aspects of our existence, but given the complex, selfish creatures we are, influenced by our culture, beliefs, upbringing and emotional baggage, it can also be one of the most challenging.
While I place huge value on harmony, I also appreciate that achieving and maintaining it takes patience, an understanding of human nature and plenty of wisdom. And while I do my utmost to live in harmony with others, my provocative, tongue-in-cheek humour is often misunderstood, with the result that I end up causing disharmony. Inadvertently, of course!
When interacting with difficult people, I try to implement one or more of the following strategies:
That said, I always look inwards before implementing any of the above approaches to make sure that I’m not the cause of the problem – isn't it funny how we are so often excellent at identifying the faults in others, while completely missing our own?!
I've also learnt to take the time to think things over before I act and, when I speak, to speak my mind with my heart. Words can cost you dearly or reward you handsomely. Underestimate the power of words and you do so at your peril. The saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," has never sat well with me as negative words can cut deeply. Positive words, on the other hand, can cause our spirits to soar. Don’t use your words to hurt, attack or threaten. And, if you want to use humour to lighten a situation, don’t resort to sarcasm because as Oscar Wilde put it, 'Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.'
I've noticed that one of the main causes of disharmony is how quick people are to form opinions based on a lack of information. In my experience, opinion usually lies somewhere between facts and ignorance. I was recently asked what I think about Madeleine McCann, the little girl who went missing in Portugal in 2007. I responded by saying that I don’t have an opinion on the case as I don’t have the facts.
I prefer to research a subject before expressing an opinion and I enjoy discussing matters with people I consider to be intelligent and wise. That said, it's worth bearing in mind that just because people are intelligent doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wise. Wisdom requires good judgement and I know of many highly intelligent people who demonstrate poor judgement. This quote by Miles Kington sums up the difference between knowledge and wisdom well: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
I mentioned earlier that it's better to be happy than to be right. My siblings and I have an interesting family trait: we believe we are always right and have a desire to prove others wrong. The good news is that I have softened up! I'm now able to accept that others are wrong, without needing to prove it. I've also realised that there is the possibility that I may in fact be wrong! And that's fine with me because being right really doesn’t matter. Living in harmony – whether it be with your partner, friends, family, colleagues – is what truly matters.