How far are you willing to go to salvage a relationship? Could you change your perspective to appease someone else’s? Maybe some bonds matter more than others? These were questions I posed to myself throughout my mid-teens. Amongst the emotional turmoil that comes along with coming of age, I also struggled with maintaining interpersonal relationships. The main culprit was my inability to let someone “win”. I only cared about what I knew, and was willing to go at great lengths to defend my view. Now, this may not seem like a big deal. But take a second to look into your life: think of the person that does not know when to stop, never lets anything go, and has to be right. You do not like that person very much, right? Well, I was that person. Notice how I said “was”; I had to learn to swallow my pride, and not drag things further than necessary. Learning to control my ego, to swallow my pride is by far the most important literacy I have acquired.
Losing friendships because of this did not phase me since I was young; alternating between friends was not uncommon during high school. Where this affected me the most was with my family, specifically my mom. Growing up in a single parent household was difficult because my mom often assumed the role as my friend, rather than an authority figure. Because of this, I would get comfortable with casual mannerisms. Once my mother decided to act like a mother, she would be furious when I would defend my point of view. My hardheadedness led to a relentless struggle between whose perspective on the given situation was superior.
My inability to swallow my pride led to a turbulent relationship with my mom. We were always upset with each other; we could not have a simple conversation without it ending in disagreement. It was like how Antoine de Saint-Exupéry explained ageist opposing views in The Little Prince: my mother could go on and on about how from her perspective the object appeared to be a hat, whilst I could argue that it is a snake eating an elephant. These are both valid perspectives on the situation, but we can still fail to accept what the other person sees. Me letting go of my perspective was just like a snake trying to swallow an elephant: merely impossible. This all changed after one conversation with my father.
My mother’s frustration led to her calling for reinforcements: my dad. My parents were not friendly with one another, however, my mother was convinced that I had an issue with respect. I explained my side of the story to him, “I just do not understand how she can think that there is only one way to solve a problem. My plan of action could lead to the very same outcome, but my mother refuses to allow any other method other than her own.” My father slightly rolled his eyes as if it was a feeling he knew all too well. What he would say next would completely change my perspective in interpersonal communications.
“Have you ever considered swallowing your pride in order to end the argument?” he said, as I felt perplexed. “Do you mean…accepting that I am wrong?” I whined, as if it were the end of the world. “No. You are going to run into people that will not see things your way; does that mean that either of you are wrong? No. But there is nothing wrong with entertaining the other’s viewpoint; you do not have to believe what they are saying is correct, however, appease that they have every right to their beliefs and just move on,” he explained. What stuck with me the most was the idea of swallowing your pride and moving on. This idea never occurred to me believe it or not.
I was stuck in my own tunnel vision for so long that I had never considered appeasement. I was a teenager obsessed with being right and acting smart. Appeasement does not mean that you abandon your views; in reality, you give your acquaintance’s point of view respect to prematurely end the disagreement. Even when you want to have the final say. You do not have to agree, but at least appease their point of view for the sake of the relationship. Constant arguing over things that do not matter much can strain a relationship beyond repair. Learning this literacy singlehandedly salvaged my relationship with my mother. Whenever I had the urge to counter argue what she had to say, I would quickly ask myself: is it worth risking our relationship? Will I be okay with letting her have the upper hand in this situation? The answer often led to me just swallowing my pride and moving on, even if I disagreed.
Not only did this newly acquired literacy help me with my mother, it led to self-improvement in general. Being able to accept perspectives other than your own has proven to be useful in my academic career. Discussions in my senior year AP Government class often included people from every point on the ideological spectrum. Accepting what someone has said as valid, then using their points to strengthen the validity of your opposing view not only makes you the stronger opponent, but it displays maturity. When someone lacks maturity, they will stick to what they believe in and constantly say that any other view is wrong just because it is not theirs. It is much better to know when to stop [swallowing your pride], in order to preserve your reputation and relationships with others. Literacies are not innate ideas. No matter how perfect the slate, there are ideas/skills that we are not engraved with at birth. My dad teaching me to swallow my pride has helped me become more tolerant, and put relationships at a higher regard. Much higher than just being right.
- Saint-Exupéry, and Katherine Woods. The Little Prince. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Print.