For as long as I can remember, I’ve been unnerved by the degree to which toxicity and conflict disrupt harmony among people. Although this is an evil that I’ve become necessarily accustomed to, and therefore adept at dealing with (at least circumstantially) it still leaves me perplexed. People get a big knee slappin’ laugh when they hear Rodney King’s famous quote, “Can’t we all just get along?” Honestly, aside from the fact that I get the joke, I think he was on to something profound. When I mull over that question, I’m inclined to optimistically proclaim that we “can” all get along. However, I’m not so sure how willing I am to handcuff myself to that position in lieu of the bountiful societal evidence to the contrary. If we consider what war, treason, greed, and violence, among other less than desirable forces have to say about it, the web becomes all the more tangled. I think one of the keys to this epidemic of deficient human interaction finds its roots in a lack of social intelligence. Simply put, this concept speaks to the ability of people to understand and deal with, well…people. Here’s an easy way to determine how much you could stand to elevate in said area. If you have more known enemies than you can count on one hand, excluding your thumb, this might be you. If you find your self frequently being transgressed against by people you allowed to get close to you then your eyes should be widening right about now. Additionally, if you average more than 1 physical fight per year and you’re over the age of 17 then this build should yield value for you (aside: if your occupation requires that you fuck people up on a regular basis, or you participate in a combat sport you get a pass, LOL!). Rest assured, this is not intended to be a judgmental statement about individuals that fall within the aforementioned groups. Truthfully, I could have included quite a few more specific segments of the population, but to do so would have bordered on redundancy, which I strive to avoid like the plague. I think we can all benefit from taking a close look at this phenomenon and uncovering some of its elements, while entertaining ideas of how to thwart it.
One thing we need to firmly establish is that social grace is a skill which must be learned. While there are certainly people with natural gifts of charisma, sense of humor, and congeniality these individuals only become truly skillful at exhibiting such qualities through practice. I’m not saying that they stand in the mirror and rehearse their dispositions, I’m simply pointing out that by virtue of continuous engagement of others, in conversation and endeavor, they fluidly enhance their sense of the do’s and don’ts which apply. Getting along with people is about balancing your perspective on the relationship and an accurate perception of what theirs is. In my experience, among the most common fatal flaws in a relationship, even those of a casual nature, is that one party only considers what they need and want out of it. Healthy human interaction is fluid and synonymous to a dance. It has a rhythm to it, and in order for it to work all parties have to be on beat. The best way to do so is to periodically think through the mind of the other person and truly consider what they need, what they want, and how they feel. Just because you may not see a problem that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one. Keep your mind and heart cautiously open and build toward harmony. As long as the other person is relatively civilized and cares about you then most differences can easily be ironed out.
I would imagine you’re probably thinking, “yeah that shit sound good, but what if the other person is out of their fuckin’ mind?” I’m glad you asked. Dealing with people who aren’t civilized is serious business and requires one to button the chin-strap on their thinking cap extra tight. Such dealings are not always easy because some people have evil intentions along with the skills to actuate them at your expense. Your grace will manifest itself in your ability to identify these people quickly and deal with them appropriately. I would suggest studying the vast body of information which exists relative to research on people who are narcissists, sociopaths, suspiciously introverted, detached from their families completely, violent, highly insecure, afraid to commit to anything or anyone, selfish, melodramatic, excessively image conscious, excessively needy, or arrogant. Mind you, this list is not exhaustive but it’s a decent starter kit for sure. When we look at people who embody the aforementioned traits, especially a combination of more than two of them, you need to consider them dangerous. Does this mean that they are serial killers? No. Does it mean that they can inflict serious emotional, psychological, or bodily harm on you? Damn right they can! Such individuals tend to be shrouded in some measure of enveloping toxicity. Trust me, that shit is contagious and it will sting you if you allow it to. These characteristics constitute instability which is synonymous with chaos and therefore antithetical to peace and harmony. Fortunately, we have an innate ability to detect this type of energy from people. We usually see it on display in those instances where we get a bad vibe from a person. That visceral sensation that something’s not quite right about them is one that should not be ignored. Trust your instincts.
I can’t possibly overstate the importance of psychoanalyzing everyone you encounter and interact with…I mean everyone!!!!! Yeah, ya momma, baby momma, the nigga you buy weed from, all of them muthafuckas need to stay under your microscope. The reason being that there exists no title or relationship label that definitively prevents people from doing you wrong. The beautiful thing is, you can do this without the other person knowing about it. It’s actually none of their business. You don’t mean any harm, all you’re doing is observing in a calculative mentally present fashion, which is what smart socialites do. When people talk, listen. Casually probe them and encourage them to talk. Typically they’ll give you all of the information you need (and some that you don’t) in order to effectively read them. People love the sound of their own voices anyway so let em’ live. Another key point is what I like to call strategic avoidance. By this I mean maintaining the proper distance between yourself and others and calculating this distance on a case by case basis. If you don’t feel like being bothered with someone then don’t. If you don’t feel like talking on the phone with someone, don’t. There are two reasons for this. Number one, if the person fits one of the descriptions we listed earlier then they’re the type of person you should steer clear of in order to shield your self from the harm they might bring. Secondly, even if they don’t fall into such a category, they don’t stand to gain anything by dealing with you when you aren’t up for it. Face it, we all have our moods and aren’t fit to be bothered with 24hrs a day. If you know you’re in a funky mood do the rest of the social world a favor and let that current of air subside before you re-enter the sandbox, that way you’re much more likely to play nice :-).
Human beings are very complex creatures and the ways in which we relate are ever-changing. We are driven by a myriad of different motives, and feelings. Further complicating matters is the fact that we aren’t always aware of how these elements impact the way that we act toward one another. As such, it is imperative that we develop a more organic way of viewing relationships. Since they are maintained by living, breathing, sentient beings I would contend that so too are our relationships living animated entities. When we learn to see them in this light we become more inclined to take their health seriously…