Argh! I hate it when… he does that. When she says that. When he forgets to do that. When she doesn’t tell me that. When… finish the sentence with any of the things that frustrate you when relating to other people. It could be a relationship at work, home, church, or community. Everyone occasionally experiences some level of frustration when dealing with others. Even the most balanced, at peace, contented people I know will admit to this. It’s also clear, though, that some are much more tolerant of others’ differences. Why? How can we all experience more peace in relationships?
My real message isn’t “Why others frustrate you.” (After all, They are not the problem. You cannot change other people.) The issue is you, and the issue can be broken down into two facets: Not understanding yourself, and Substandard personal character.
Not Understanding Yourself
It is very important to consciously acknowledge your own values in relating to other people. Let’s call these Interpersonal Relating Values, or IRVs. These are the things that are important to you when you are communicating and working with others. When you enter an encounter with another person, you have a set of expectations, usually not verbalized, that serve as your model for evaluating the effectiveness and efficacy of that encounter.
Don’t forget, too, that the other person in that encounter also has IRVs. They also have a model for evaluating your encounter together. Consciously or subconsciously, everyone is continuously evaluating the relationship.
The problem is that rarely do both people have a conscious understanding of their own model. They do not understand their IRVs.
To illustrate how problematic this can be, think about the last time you played a game with someone. Cards. Trivial Pursuit. Monopoly. Or perhaps it was an athletic activity. Tennis. Basketball. Football. Imagine how the experience would have gone had you not known the rules of the game. What if your Trivial Pursuit competitor expected you to be bidding on the round? What if you suddenly found yourself being tackled as you prepared to serve the ball with your racket? Would you be confused if you were penalized ten yards for throwing doubles on your dice?
You normally play a game with a clear expectations of the rules. For example, I’ve played many pickup basketball games. On occasion, I’ve been a newcomer to a group of guys that play together often. I had my own understanding of how and when to call fouls. Then, when a foul occured my expectation was either confirmed or further clarified by how my teammates and opponents handled a foul.
In any game, a set of rules is critical for proceeding fairly and for teammates to work together.
When relating to others, that set of rules is your expectations, or IRVs (interpersonal relating values). What are your IRVs? These three questions will help you identify your values pretty quickly.
- What assumptions do you hold when relating to others?
My biggest assumption is honesty.
- What pet peeves do you have when relating to others?
A common pet peeve for me is lack of clarity in communication.
- What are your biggest goals in relating to others?
One of my goals is collaboration.
So, you can see that when I relate to others, I tend to evaluate the encounter on honesty, clarity, and collaboration. When I experience a frustration, it is almost always because one of those values has been violated.
Thinking of the frustration in those terms helps me to objectify the issue and maintain my respect for the other person. It facilitates an ongoing, effective relationship. It also provides a way to address problems if needed: Tony, when we last discussed Project Maple, I thought we agreed to… I guess I missed something, because what happened last week was…
My conscious understanding of what I value when relating to others facilitates good relationships and effective work.
Substandard Personal Character
I’m starting this part of the discussion with a confession: I’m terribly guilty of this. This discussion will be blunt and brief because the issues are clear and need little explanation.
Much more important than not having a conscious understanding of your own IRVs is weakness in personal character. The biggest problem any of us has (read I have) in relating to others is not the other person, but ourselves (read myself).
The truth is that my biggest source of frustration with others is:
- My lack of love for that person, and others in general.
- My lack of joy and peace in life.
- My lack of patience in all situations.
- My lack of kindness, goodness, and gentleness toward others.
- My lack of faithfulness toward God and others.
- My lack of self-control over my own desires.
You may recognize that list of character qualities from a letter written about 49 A.D. by an early church leader, Paul, to a Christian church in Galatia (in modern day Turkey). The general themes in his letter were legalism, grace, and spiritual maturity. Paul set these qualities as a standard to aspire to, but made it clear that they cannot be attained by anyone’s (my) own doing. Instead, they are the work of the Holy Spirit, resulting from a character of humble submission to God.
Do you desire more peace, joy, and love in your relationships? On a practical level, it helps to understand your model for evaluating your experiences with others, your IRVs. However, in the eternal picture, your frustrations with others is not about them, it is about your own character, your own heart. Are you submitting your heart for transformation by the Holy Spirit?
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo available at Gratisography.com under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.