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The Trouble with People


If we have any dealings at all with people, we’re likely to have some sort of trouble with people. Of course, the trouble with people is that they are people and people are human. Not a single one of us is exempt from the condition. And given that dealing with people is a necessity while we have breath in our lungs, we have to deal with the trouble with people.

The challenges and complications of this common condition are many and varied. There are those of us with short fuses and more than a few of us with a hyper-competitive streak. Some among us could rightly be labeled lazy and many if not all of us are prone to come up with labels for everyone. We can probably think of someone who seems to always want to pick a fight if there’s not already one underway and we most likely can name another someone who makes everything – every little thing – about herself or himself. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of stuff that can make for chilly relations as we deal with people.

And relate we do and relate we must. We relate to people we’re related to and we relate to people we randomly encounter as we go about breathing and living our lives. We relate to people intentionally and accidently, warmly and cooly, regularly and haphazardly, kindly and cruelly, playfully and manipulatively. And when we slip into a patch of difficulty with another person, it’s our very natural tendency to want to assess the trouble as being with the other. It’s her fault. It’s because he does what he does the way he does it. Finding ourselves mired in that patch of difficulty, there are any number of ways to try to wriggle out of it. But part of the challenge in climbing out of it is that we can neither predict nor prescribe the other’s actions and reactions. More trouble with people: they can’t be programmed.

It's sometimes said that we cannot control other people; we can only control our response to them. Lovely thought. Tricky to live. Some people just irritate us. Others gross us out. Some people baffle us while others intimidate us. In our own defense we plead being wired with an automatic response to certain kinds of people that we can’t adjust. Have we tried? Can’t teach an old dog new tricks, we offer further in our defense. Is it that we’re not interested in learning? Learning would mean shifting and shifting means changing and changing means having to let go of something we’d rather hold on to. More trouble with people: we harbor a herd of sacred cows in our hearts.

Perhaps the best way to deal with the trouble with people is to stop breathing. Seems preferable to thaw some of the iceberg and sacrifice a few cows instead.

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