How to Accept Others

Here’s the thing. We don’t always accept others the way they are. More often than not, we want them to change because we implicitly think they are not good enough for us, or “not up to our standard”, so to speak. Put simply, we judge them. At the same time, we won’t spend any time making the effort to change ourselves. Moreover, when we want others to change, it might not be in their best interests — at least the way they see it themselves.

Furthermore, when situations don’t turn out as expected, it’s always easier to blame others rather than taking responsibility and focusing on what we can do ourselves. Playing the blame game is never worth the cost of our relationship with others. “Winning” your point over some heated debate is not a win. In fact, it’s a lose-lose for both people involved.

My parents and I have some common overlapping values, but we also have plenty that are quite different from each other, which is also likely due to the generational gap in terms of how we were raised and how we think now. For instance, it’s hard for them to say no to others’ requests (which is alien to them), particularly those that involve coming to our home, without thinking once about their own convenience and schedules. I, on the other hand, believe in having a healthy selfishness — that we can’t help others until we help ourselves first. In this context, it would mean that I would meet friends, family, and clients only when it’s mutually convenient for both of us (not just them). Since my parents visit me often and stay with me, what would happen sometimes is they would call guests over when it’s convenient to them and expect me to also spend time with them. Of course, this isn’t possible for me for many reasons. First of all, I am not even aware of the fact that the guests are coming over. I already have my week planned. Second of all, even if I didn’t have any prior commitment during this time, I would need to evaluate myself and decide if giving them time would be the best use of my time. So what are my choices here? Either I can choose to get annoyed/upset/frustrated from my parents’ choice of having guests over without checking with me, or I can accept their choice for what it is and choose to not give my time to their guests. Of course, my parents and I have discussed this a few times, but I’ve been unable to make them understand. Living together joyfully doesn’t have to mean that we agree to everything that we talk about, because we don’t and it’s okay. All we can do is accept each others’ values and choices and respect them rather than complain to each other about ourselves.

A few of my friends and family dislike the fact that I don’t answer their calls the moment they call me because they expect their calls to be answered no matter what. This isn’t to say that I don’t return their calls when it’s convenient for me, which I totally do. The thing is they don’t pause to think if it’s convenient for others to answer them or not. They also forget that the phone is for the owner’s convenience (and not vice versa). Just because they answer their phones all the time (which is out of their own choice), they shouldn’t expect others to do it too. They can either respect my choice or complain about it. Regardless of what they do, it won’t change anything. That goes for me too. I need to accept that it’s not my problem, because it’s not. We can’t tell others how to use their phones. Our phones are for our convenience, not theirs; sadly, this is lost on most people today. The point is we need to accept others for who they are and vice-versa.

We want others to change their habits and whatnot because we don’t like it. The question is: why should others change for us? They shouldn’t. If I have a problem with my family member having a temper, the best I can do is talk to them, but I can’t expect them to change because I have a problem with it. I need to accept that I can’t change them, nor do I want to even try. At the same time, I cannot make it my problem and I also need to remember that we teach others how to “behave” with us. In any case, we only change when we think it’s in our self-interest to change, despite what others might have us believe.

So why accept others the way they are? Well, what’s the alternative? What we have learned is that we can either accept things the way they are or try to change them. We can’t do both. Since changing others is out of the question, we can only change ourselves (if we want). We can accept others for who they are rather than who they are not and make that peace with ourselves.

Accepting others starts with accepting yourself. Accept yourself the way you are. Only then can you accept others for who they are rather than complain or fret about who they are not. For instance, if your child is not inclined to study engineering or medicine (but you wanted them to for whatever reason), accept the fact. Don’t try to get them to do it because you want them to do it. If they are more interested in pursuing photography, then why not let them do that? Similarly, if you have a business, don’t expect your children to continue working on it after you. They may or may not be inclined toward the business, and that should be okay with you. Regardless of what they end up doing, parents should respect their children’s choices. Nothing good will come from imposing their choices on their children. They should love them unconditionally and always be supportive of their endeavors.

Accept your spouse the way they are. If you want them to change, you can only inspire them through your actions. Whether they change or learn is up to them. The only way they will change is when they realize it’s in their own rational self-interest, and not because you want them to. By working on yourself (role-modeling), you can inspire them to change. You can work toward improving your situation with your spouse, but there are no guarantees (as with anything). The point is that we can only work on things that are directly under our control (such as ourselves).

We can only inspire others through our actions; we can never “motivate” others as it is intrinsic. Whether they choose to learn from us or not is up to them. We can only learn, but we can never teach/share. All learning is voluntary, as it should be. For instance, if you want your kids to spend less time on screens, then you need to set a good example by first doing it yourself. If you’re hoping for them to use their screens less, but aren’t doing it yourself, then it doesn’t matter. Kids learn from what we do rather than what we say. The same is true with adults as well.

Accept your boss/colleague the way they are. If you don’t like working with them, you have a choice to leave the job, but going around complaining in their absence will not make any difference to your work, so why even bother? It’s not like you’re forced to work there; working there is your own choice. How often are we guilty of saying that our work or our boss frustrates us? The thing is no one can frustrate you unless you choose to be frustrated. You see, outside things/people/events have no access to our minds. It’s only what/how we judge things or perceive them that affects us. In other words, nothing should affect you outside the reasoned choices you make.

The problem is never out there, but it’s always within. When we get angry about things with others, it’s never the things we claim to be angry about. It’s not the events that disturb us, but how we perceive them.

We can’t change others, nor should we even try. Even if we can somehow get others to change, it isn’t worth the cost, as they may do it because you want them to, but they aren’t doing it willingly. So why even go that route? For instance, my mother was unhappy with her phone carrier. As someone who saw this issue and cared about her, I was quick to do something about it. I figured the best thing for her would be to move her number to a different carrier, which I thought was more reliable for her. Now, I did it without asking her. When I told her about it, she wasn’t too keen on moving her number to the new carrier, despite the issue she was facing with her current carrier. At first, I got a bit upset when she didn’t want to move her number, but later I got over it and accepted the fact that she didn’t want to do it and I needed to respect that even if it was not in her best interest to remain with the present carrier (at least, the way I saw it). So you see, we can’t change others — we can only offer to help them. Whether or not they choose to accept is their choice and we should be okay with that.

Avoid judging others. When you spot something in others you don’t like, accept it (or ignore it) and choose to see their positives rather than getting anxious about their negatives. Simply affirm others, appreciate them for who they are, and enjoy your time together with them. The point is that we all have negatives (or weaknesses), but we need to look past them. You see, we have lots of positives as well, which we don’t focus on as much. Seeing those positives is a choice only proactive people can make.

Don’t just accept things the way they are with your friend, spouse, or colleague, but learn to enjoy them and make the most of it. Learn to accept things rather than resist or fight them.

We are united in our differences. We should celebrate our differences rather than fret about them. No two people are going to be the same. Accept others without feeling the need to convince or persuade them that they are wrong about something. They are certainly right from their perspective and so are you. This is why any two people can view the exact same thing and come up with totally different conclusions. It’s not logical, but psychological.

We should choose to always see the good in others, and our default response in any situation should be positive. This is not to say that we are ignoring their negatives, but how we see others is our choice. We can choose to see their positives and appreciate them rather than think about their negatives and complain about them.

Never give up on your relationships, as long as your own well-being is not at stake (remember healthy selfishness). Love them unconditionally.

Always question others’ intent and question your actions. We usually do the reverse. That is, when it comes to our actions, we become lawyers and defend ourselves, but when it comes to others’ actions, we are quick to judge them. Instead of judging their actions, ask yourself why they did what they did. Question their intent/motive first (don’t just go by their actions). Did they mean to hurt you intentionally, or were they trying to do something good that didn’t come out as positively as they had hoped? The thing is everyone is always right from their perspective. We need to walk a mile in their shoes before we can even begin to judge them (not that we should).

We need to celebrate others’ strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant by compensating them with our strengths. This is particularly true when working in multidisciplinary teams where the point is not to all think alike and to have the same skills, but to contribute to a common goal with our individual skills and talents, whose net result is greater than what we would have come up on our own. That is synergy!

We need to listen to others without giving them any unsolicited feedback. Besides, we can only prescribe when we can fully diagnose the situation. We need to stop trying to solve others’ problems. They don’t need us to do that. If/when they do, they will explicitly ask us how, but until that point, our job is to listen to them and try to understand their perspective without judging them or feeling the need to agree or disagree with them. When others are emotionally charged, we empathize with them. Only talk logically when they ask questions or to ask them questions to clarify things. We all want to be listened to, to receive that psychological air that we need.

Always be loyal to others when they are absent. That means give others the benefit of the doubt in their absence. When others are talking negatively about them to you in their absence, you should be quick to defend them. In any case, they are not present to defend themselves or to speak for themselves, so it’s not fair to them. Of course, feel free to say as many positive things as you like about them in their absence.

When we meet someone we like, chances are they may not share the same values as us, and that’s fine. Just don’t go around trying to change them — all you can do is expose them to things. Whether they learn from it or not is their choice because learning is always voluntary.

Accept others for who they are rather than complain about who they are not. Don’t just accept others, but take it one step further and learn to enjoy, affirm, and appreciate them. Make the most of your time with them. Listen, understand, and empathize with others. We can’t change others, nor should we try. If we are trying to change them, it means they are not good enough for us or they are not “up to our standards”, so to speak. If that’s the case, we are judging them, and that’s the last thing we want to do.

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