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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dealing with Individual Differences.

It all Began when Shekhar refused to be present in the pooja organized in his home by his religious parents. “Mummy, I respect your sentiments completely, please go ahead with it if this is what gives you satisfaction. But don’t force me to be a part of it. This is what he told his mother.

Shekhar believes in a “rational” approach to life. For him doing something the meaning of which he does not understand (partially or completely) creates a conflict within him. But for his parents it is like keeping the age old traditions alive. Though Shekhar has no problem with keeping the traditions alive but he simply cannot do something that does not come from his heart and mind!! Incidents like this often become major family issues for Shekhar and his parents and lead to serious quarrels between them. This continuously makes the family members more distant from each other. The matter of argument is not always a religious ritual; this happens in many others aspects of life.
Similarly, Shraddha always has a tussle with her husband over keeping the house clean. Her husband Vijay believes in living a relatively carefree life while Shraddha is a thorough perfectionist! So every other day they keep arguing as to “which is a better way to live”??

All of us go through similar experiences everyday (if not the same) . Most of these issues that we have in everyday life with people around us can be put into one category – “problems in adjusting to Individual differences”. I am sure; it will be difficult to find a (normal) adult who does not know that all people are different. It is a well know fact that ALL PEOPLE DIFFER from one and other not just in the physical characteristics but also in the psychological characteristics. Therefore we all are bound to behave differently.

Then WHY do we have so much a problem in adjusting to these differences?? OR shall I put it the other way – When almost all normal adults have the knowledge that people are different and are bound to behave differently, then what makes it so difficult to accept these differences in the significant other?

Clearly this knowledge is not enough. Probably, what is required is the “AWARENESS” that all people are different (like in many other matters concerning life too) and the “ART of dealing with them”.

I see one major cause of this maladjustment:

Both parties experience some kind of a threat (more often psychological in nature) which stops them from accepting the other person’s opinion(s) or differences. This threat might be in different forms – may be one or both are protecting their own egos, or may be they are facing an internal conflict like Shekhar, might be a question of self esteem either low or high , the threats can be of many varieties. In other words, when people are in situations like these it’s likely that they are facing an internal fear of some unwanted consequence.

As we face the threat the immediate reactions for most people are arguments, frustrations and quarrels. Clearly the consequence of this method of dealing with the differences is not very constructive, because this way of dealing with it leads to other problems and maladjustment. This way is clearly not going to be helpful to anyone in the long run. We need to make sure that we deal with these differences in such a way that they are mentally and physically healthy for us (and the other too). We all need to honestly introspect as to “how many” such threats do we face everyday and even more importantly “how do we deal” with these threats mostly.

Sometimes the threat can be really very serious like for example the threat to life from a terrorist who probably believes that his religion is under threat from the rest of the world and finds this as the best way to deal with his internal threat. But, in everyday life the threat is not always as big as we perceive it to be. If only we understood this, I believe that many of our daily disputes will be so much under our control.

I have seen at least one woman namely Maya (name changed) for whom this phenomena of Individual differences drastically changed her entire life and for ever!! Maya was a well educated girl from a highly educated family. She happened to get married to a man arranged by her family and shifted into another Indian city. This is about those days when most Indian girls used to be much more submissive and getting into an inter-caste and/or love marriage was a taboo So people would marry a person chosen by their parents and would not dare to actively choose their life partner. (As is the case even today in many Indian cities and mindsets). Maya’s came from a very educated and a broad minded family into an orthodox and relatively much narrow minded joint family. The two families were exact opposites!! Maya not being so “aware” of her position had no idea as to what is happening in her life and how to deal with this situation. Her in-laws equally or may be even more unaware carried on with the “ego attacks” not realizing that the new girl at least needs some time to understand the new family, if not more !! (I will come to his topic of adjustment of a newly married Indian girl into the new family and life in another article later on). For Maya and her in-laws this maladjustment to the individual differences resulted in a life long of bitter relationships and unresolved problems.

How we wish, people took a little more effort to introspect and correct their mistakes. Or even better, may be prevent them!!

So then how can one adjust to these individual differences? May be one can consider the following:

1. First and foremost, one should be “willing” to adjust to these differences in the most constructive way. (As is required for most adjustment processes).If the person is willing, he/she should be motivated to work towards resolving it in a better way.

2. One must be AWARE that individual differences exist and that they are 100% natural phenomena. Just like I cannot change the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, whether or not I like it, similarly I also cannot change the fact that all personalities are different, were always different and will always be different. J

3. One should “Accept and Respect” these individual differences. If, we notice carefully, we find that the major problem of the world if not that we are different from each other but that there is a “lack of acceptance and respect” for the opinion of other people. No matter how different the opinion of the other is, it is better for at least one or both the parties to learn to accept and respect them as their opinion. Though our point might be very strong, valid and justified for us, the other person too is equally justified, and valid in his/her eyes.

4. Respect and acceptance will come only after one learns to deal with the psychological threat that one is facing within. So, one has to examine and analyze the threat within so as to be able to deal with it better. After all, the earth will not stop rotating if things do not happen the way I desire!!

5. Like any other art, this needs time and practice too, so try try till u succeed in handling individual differences better.

Thanks for reading, your comments are welcome!!

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  1. Beautiful post. Understanding and appreciating the differences and dealing with them is very important for a peaceful life. Many people underestimate this and simply unaware of this. It's a wonderful topic you've written about!

  2. great going..great mind n thoughts..nearly true to life

  3. I think we have lost that understanding and patience that the older generations had and education has nothing ot do with it, or we would have been a better lot.right?

  4. Being an astute atheist i can very relate these things to me. Yes it is very hard to deal with irrational things.

  5. Very good thinking relating from each and every angle. I want to know about how to deal with cultural difference of students in a class

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