Are you aware of the many ways you try to change others?  Do you make requests and suggestions? Do you drop hints? Use indirect ways like sulking; threats and punishment? Do you stew over what they should have done?  Whatever the way, a great deal of our frustrations in life comes from our failed attempts to change others, to make them be or behave the way we want, basically to make others like ourselves…

A close friend recently lamented: “…twenty years of marriage, TWENTY YEARS (he repeated) and I was not able to change one single thing in her” referring to his wife. After a long silence, with dozens of possible responses rushing through my head, I simply said: Nor was she…

I see no issues with people interacting and mutually influencing one another. Trying to change others by sharing some of our knowledge or experience is not a problem per se either. Laws, educational systems, norms, standards, are all very powerful tools for behavioral change. Even frustrations when someone does not meet our expectations may not be a problem.

To me the problem is our default, automatic reaction to frustration: targeting the perceived source of our frustration. Whether a brut, uncivilized reaction (e.g,, a violent put down) or a controlled, calculating one (passive-aggressive retaliation), the default reaction seems to target the “cause” of our frustration: others!

There is a gentle alternative.

Frustration can be a key to our inner world, to our expectations, needs, values and goals. What does the frustration tell me about myself? How is the situation pushing my boundaries? What values are being violated? How is it helping or challenging my sense of who I am?

There is room for everyone’s differentness in this world. The universe loves diversity.  How much differentness can you include in your world? Broadening oneself to include more differentness may be a personal development goal. Changing oneself a little bit here and there to accommodate others can be unpleasant…In the long run, those little, possibly unpleasant accommodations may be less damaging and less destructive than the forceful reduction or elimination of differences.

Inclusion is not indifference (e.g., “who cares” attitude). It’s not approval or liking either. It’s making room in our mind and eventually in our hearts for co-existence.

It’s a journey that most people are capable of. The decision is how far each one of us wants to go. All distances accepted! The GentleWays