Category Archives: alienate people

Back to Back and Belly to Belly:­ Where Do We Go Now?



Enemies are people whose story you haven’t heard, or whose face you haven’t seen.
~ Irene Butter~

Take a moment to let your imagination loose. If you were tied back to back with someone and both of you looked straight ahead, what could you both see clearly? Nothing! You can’t see what is behind you. If you are tied together facing belly to belly, is it possible to feel neutral toward each other? Not likely! It would probably depend on how well you knew each other. Lately it seems like we are in both situations at the same time. Either way, the arrangement is most likely uncomfortable on both sides.

Getting back to reality, what can you do to manage your discomfort? You might start by introducing yourselves to each other. Most people start with something safe to see what reaction they get. If they receive a positive response they might try something a little more personal. If something uncomfortable arises, they have the option of a conversation, including listening to each other and explaining themselves.

In today’s politically, socially and morally charged climate, it is easy to wonder if those you encounter are potential friends or enemies. Is that what you want them to wonder about you? Most people don’t. I dare say most people want to be understood, taken seriously and respected. If you are determined to get along with other people, don’t wait for them to make the first move. Take the initiative yourself. If you don’t want to take that chance you can always bristle like a porcupine, warning others not to get too close to you.

Why are we at each others’ throats? On the surface it appears to be a matter of anger with political parties engaged in a struggle for power, racial and ethnic divides and a battle between genders as well as conflict over religious, moral and ethical principles. We have always had differences among groups on these as well as other issues. There have been times when we have been able to talk about these differences and to some extent arrive at a modicum of understanding if not agreement. At other times we have ended up in war.

Finding bridges among groups seems more difficult than ever these days. But why? The anger behind our conflict has its chief source in fear. What are we afraid of? Scott Bonn writes in Psychology Today about General Strain Theory. According to this theory, fear “leads to anger which in turn leads to violence. Such strain results from losing something of value or it can result from failing to attain something of value.”  This could involve loss of a job, loss of financial security or a relationship turning sour.

For lack of any constructive alternatives to handle actual or feared losses, some people end up on the road to anger and possibly violence as a way to express their anger and rage. Some people grew up in families where they never saw good ways to handle fear and loss. They are more likely to follow the path I just mentioned.

So what do we do to get along better and avoid the strain? Here are some suggestions:

Action steps  

  •  Start by finding out what is important to others.
  • When they are ready, ask what bothers them.
  • Mention what is important to you.
  • Talk about what bothers you.
  • Find ways to work together toward mutual goals.

Thank You Donald Trump

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer~

Some people are horrified at the venom spewing from the mouth of Donald Trump. People at the other end of the spectrum are happy to hear someone express the rage they feel because their lives are not the way they would like to see them.  Most of these people don’t dare to share their anger or lash out at anyone who could possibly be responsible for their lives being a mess but suffer in resignation.

The Trump rhetoric is not a reasoned response to feeling angry among his followers. There is no attempt to understand why they are in the situation they are in or to find a reasonable approach to changing that situation. Their sole focus seems to be to rage at those they blame for their misfortune and to destroy the people and institutions they hold responsible.

Trump supporters are not the only ones suffering. Many people silently endure poverty, racism, debt, lack of a good job and medical woes. They could choose rage as well but realize that spewing invective as he does will not change their situation. Nor will it make them feel any better in the long run. Those suffering in both groups do not have the power individually to change their status to that of people with more satisfying lives.

Have you ever known an angry mob to find constructive solutions to their plight? I haven’t. The only way to make reasonable changes is to learn how to work together. But you can’t do this while you are consumed with rage.

People shouting are not in the frame of mind to reason with anyone else about anything. Others who listen to the shouting only hear raw emotion. They don’t hear any details of others’ pain, how it came about or how it affects individuals and families. Neither do they hear anything rational which might become a basis for productive negotiations or cooperation.

So why should we thank Donald Trump? We all have within us the capacity to negotiate with each other toward our common good. All of us have the capacity to descend into blind rage where our words are merely weapons and offer no bridges toward mutual dialog. We can thank him for showing us the worst of which we are capable. He mirrors the depth of rage and spitefulness for which we all have the capacity.

Can you imagine all of the billions of people on earth acting as he does in public? It’s a frightful image to behold. Before we get to this point, we can learn to behave like rational human beings and express our concerns in a way which others can understand and which allows us to work together toward solutions which benefit us all.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Write down what makes you angry about your life.
  • Try to understand how you got to feel this way.
  • Do so without blaming someone else for your misfortune.
  • Consider what you have to offer others to better their lives.
  • Try out one of your ideas with one other person.

7 ways not to lose friends and alienate people

man on hill

The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.

~Dale Carnegie~

I am sure you have at least heard of Dale Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He wrote the book in 1936 and it remains popular today. Its publication came just before we were called on to come together as a nation to put aside our differences and join World War II in defense of western civilization.

The world has changed since then. Once we greeted each other on the street, stopped to talk and agreed to meet later for face to face conversation. Now many people live plugged into their cell phones and other devices, shut off from their surroundings. It’s as though the real world doesn’t exist any more, only the virtual one.

Carnegie suggested listening to people and their needs as a way to connect for mutual benefit. He also said that the only way to get what you want from others is to give them what they want. That approach seems strange to us these days. To a large extent we seem locked in conflict with each other rather than working together toward mutual goals. Congress and many state legislatures are almost evenly split into polar opposite ways of thinking.

Those who elect them are just as evenly split. Those who don’t vote have either given up on the political process or have lost interest in it. We seem to have lost our national will. It seems a shame that the only thing which brings us together is war. Can we find a way to work together again? I think so. The challenge is finding a way to do it.

Here are seven steps you can take:

  1. Keep electronics in perspective– Reality does not consist of tweets, text messages and emails.
  2. Open your ears– Unplug from electronics and let in the sound of others’ voices.
  3. Open your mind– Realize that others may think differently from us but are just as concerned about their wellbeing.
  4. Find common ground– See how your needs fit with the needs of others.
  5. Try to cooperate rather than win– Find a way for both of you to win.
  6. Listen before you talk– Others will be more likely to hear you if they know you understand them.
  7. Don’t hold a grudge– The chip on your shoulder blocks communication.

You might find some or all of these approaches uncomfortable. They are not the way you are used to doing things. Why bother? Think of the number of people complaining about stress these days. In my opinion, one of the main reasons for this is isolation. Others travel the same path as you do but mostly in isolation. It doesn’t need to stay that way. You can wait for others to break the barrier and communicate for you. But why wait? Try taking the first step yourself.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.
  • Hear what is important to others.
  • Tell them what you heard them say.
  • Clarify any misunderstandings.
  • See yourself as part of a team rather than an individual.