A coworker is championing green initiatives, but you think they’re a waste
of time. Your company is planning a Christmas party, and you feel that it should be called a “holiday party” to be more inclusive. Your spouse keeps forgetting to put gas in the car. What do you do?

It’s probably safe to say that at any given time, somebody somewhere is doing something or saying something that you won’t agree with. Bosses, employees, coworkers, friends, family members all have their own ideas, and it would just be silly to think that they will all resonate with yours. You don’t have any control over how others see the world around them, but you do have complete control over how you choose to respond to them, and this is critical in the ongoing process of building strong, lasting relationships.

Whenever these differences surface, you have three basic options: Try and change things, avoid them, or learn to live with them. There is, of course, no one strategy that’s right for all situations. So how do you know what the best response should be? Before you do or say anything, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Five years from now, what concrete damage will this person’s actions or words really have caused? If the answer is ‘none’, then drop it. If you can identify a genuine negative outcome (without having to stretch) then do something about it.

2. Are you in the minority? Is this just a personal sensitivity shared by only a few others? If so, then maybe you should learn to live with whatever the issue is. If the majority of people appear as bothered as you, then you can take action.

3. What is the cost/benefit? Weigh the negative impact of any action you might take with whatever positive outcome you hope to achieve. Scolding a coworker over how messy their workspace is, for example, achieves little more than a sense of self-satisfaction, but can have a long-term negative effect on your working relationship.

It all boils down to respect. In order to build solid, positive relationships, we need to respect others’ differences, quirks and frailties – just as we would have them respect ours. Decide the core things that are truly important to you, and don’t be afraid to champion them. But beyond that, allow others to live their lives as they choose.

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