Imagine that you are out with your partner for a country walk. You have both stopped for a rest and are leaning on a gate admiring the view. A stranger approaches and asks if you wouldn't mind doing him a favour. He asks you to climb over the gate, walk across the field and meet him at the gate on the other side of the field. Being a trusting and amenable couple, you agree to his request. You are a goal directed individual and your natural inclination is to stride across the field to get to the gate on the other side as quickly as possible. Half way across the field, you look back and see your partner wandering to the side of the field to look at a large tree. They then walk to the other side of the field to look at a pond. You feel agitated. Why are they wandering around the field? Didn't they understand that you both had to get to the gate on the other side? You then notice that they are heading away from the gate and going over to talk to a farmer working in the next field. You have now been at the gate for some time and can't believe that your partner still hasn't arrived. Eventually your partner arrives and the stranger who asked you to walk across the field joins you. You feel you have done much better than your partner. You arrived at the gate in a quarter of the time it took them. The stranger then explains to you both that he is a property developer and is thinking of buying the field. He wants your views on its suitability for a housing development. You really can't say much. You tell him the field looks nice and level and the access looks OK. Your partner can say much more. The large tree at the side of the field looks extremely old and will almost certainly have a preservation order on it. The land around the pond was very boggy. Draining the land could be very expensive. Your partner also explained that when they talked to the farmer, he said that the field had been in his family for generations and was a special place for him. He would not let it go cheaply. So, who's approach to the task was right? Sometimes it's best to take the direct route and get there quickly; sometimes it's better to wander around, take your time and find out more information along the way. There are no rights and wrongs, just differences. Our attitudes to life, our deep-seated feelings, standards and prejudices, are built up gradually over our lives. In our early years, our parents and our teachers (the important people) influence us and start to mould our feelings and values. We slowly form a blue print, a stencil, of the way we think the world should be. We think that the way we see the world, our standards and values are the right ones. The seeds are sown for future relationship problems. Each of us lives unique lives. Each of us forms our own unique blueprint. We're all different. We may have a lot in common with a lot of people but there will be differences. Once we start to understand that there can never be anyone exactly like us, we have more chance of understanding others and getting on with them better. Remember, others are just as convinced as you that their way of living is the right one. So it's that ability to recognise the true worth of your own personality and the true worth of other people's personality, which is central to having the skills to build good relationships with others. So, building relationships is all about celebrating the differences in people. It's not a negative thing. It's not about being critical of those differences. It's about using those differences, building teams that make the most of people's skills, not trying to change them so that they are like us. Recognise the strengths in people and use those strengths. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same! The starting point is to know your self first. As the Great Book says, take the plank out of your own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from someone else's!
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