Good Sense About Getting Along with Others During Troubled Times
Bill Cottringer

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” ~Theodore Roosevelt.

Despite the physical 6-foot rule of social distancing keeping us apart, a psychological closeness is growing between us all, and even with those infected by the COVID-19 virus pandemic vs. those who have not been infected. This psychological closeness can easily add unnecessary stress to interpersonal interactions. This may happen in the sense that over-familiarity can often breed contempt, which is very bad for healthy interpersonal relations between friends, family and workmates.

This may be a good time to replay some older, tried, and true principles of getting along with others in any situation, and especially during these difficult times we are all going though now. Below are seven practical suggestions to help improve personal relationships in close psychological distance:

1. Self-Management.

First, there will always be a natural desire to try and control other’s unwanted and unwelcome behavior, especially as it gets magnified in an overly stressful environment. However, we know from our collective experience, attempting to manage others is a futile pursuit full of empty and frustrating results that eventually takes us to the no-where zone.

At the end of the day, we do well to manage ourselves through the daily problems, conflicts and challenges we are confronted with. As it turns out, this is a life-long process or road perpetually under construction. So, the management of others starts out best by self-management or focusing on yourself rather than others. After all, what starts out right, like Michelangelo once said regarding his paintings, has a much better chance of finishing well.

2. Control What You Can.

Quite a while ago, a smart accountant gave me the best business advice I have ever received with his mantra of “Control the Controllables.” With this advice, I later added my own caveat of “and let go of the rest.” By focusing first on managing yourself rather than controlling others, you gain a valuable insight about what you can and cannot control about your own behavior. You really can’t control your mind in thinking negative, unproductive, prejudicial or harmful thoughts. Your brain is on auto pilot with this function.

What you can control, by exercising a little self-discipline, is in not translating those unhealthy thoughts to your mouth for speaking or to your hands for behaving. If that is not enough guidance, everyone knows that you can’t talk yourself out of a situation you behaved yourself into. The only effective way to manage yourself and influence others positively, is to demonstrate proper behavior and supportive speaking as a model.

3. What You Can Control.

I have been a student and teacher of human behavior for over 5 decades now, and have arrived at an important realization about what we can actually control in regards to our own behavior. This has to do with just two things: (a) What comes out of our mouths, and (b) What perceptions of ourselves we project for others to either like or dislike, or trust or distrust us. We do this mainly though the shadow of our character, with the behavior we display for others to see. This is especially magnified during crisis situations that are emotionally bound and best remembered.

Perceptions are our reality and we automatically believe them to be accurate and complete. This is so, even despite compelling evidence to the contrary. To understand this principle, visit these websites: ; ; Viewing these dissonant optical illusions that tell our brains that something is so, but not really being so, is enough experience to realize the fragility error of perceptions. This can alert us to put our best foot forward to have people see us the way we want to be seen—as our best self, especially during a stressful crisis which tempts our bad self.

4. Hold Your Tongue.

It is always a good practice to think first before you say something to another person—especially if it is a negative criticism during times we are now experiencing, which tend to blow everything out of proportion, from a mole hill to a mountain. You might consider pausing and answering this question before you speak: Will what I am about to say or not say, help or hurt my relationship with the other person?

Crisis situations like we are caught up in now, are not the time and place for unnecessary negativity because frankly, we need all the positive thoughts and actions we can muster. If you feel compelled for legitimate reasons to put forth a constructive criticism to another, at lease consider taking a little more time to show the person a better way to do something in the right way, yourself.

5. Grow your Tolerance.

Conscientious exercise of tolerance is sorely needed during stressful times when more than enough intolerance is already building unconsciously. Even during normal times, the qualities of tolerance and acceptance are essential to avoid an unproductive defensive communication climate that stops two-way conversations in its tracks. When stressful times appear, good communication is a must and good communication can only occur with acceptance and control of things like superiority, control. Insensitivity, certainty and judgment. And acts of compromise and collaboration will surely get better results.

A reasonable degree of unavoidable intolerance can be resolved with assertiveness, especially in your communication. This is where acceptable tolerance of annoying bad habits and impervious conditions not under another person’s control, are separated from the unacceptable, destructive behaviors that make healthy relationships impossible.

6. Be Likeable.

Being likeable is the best way to apply the wise advice of two people-person experts, Teddy Roosevelt in the opening quote, and by Earl Nightingale below in the closing quote. Other people perceive you as being either likeable or unlikeable based on certain behaviors your display. Success in anything is driven primarily by perceptions of your likeability, while being delayed or impeded by unlikeable perceptions.

Research shows that certain behaviors are more likely to result in a likeable perception by others as opposed to their opposites leading to an unlikeable perception. On the positive side of likeability are acceptance, agreeability, empathy, honesty, humility, positivism, sense of humor, and good listening. On the negative side of unlikability are judgment, disagreement, insensitivity, dishonesty, egoism, negativity, over-seriousness, and poor listening. Likeable people are happier, have better relationships and experience more success. That is enough for me to hitch my wagon to!

7. Be Forgiving.

When all else fails, forgiveness works. By forgiving others who trespass against us, we are eliminating the negative sting that comes with what we are forgiving. But that doesn’t mean we need to forget something that isn’t helping personal relationships. The timing for correction may just not be ideal and can always be done later when the stress from a crisis is past. And by that time, you may have forgotten what bothered you so much, which is the end of it.

Forgiveness is always a choice, even though sometimes a difficult one to speak or act on. The trouble is usually human nature that drives reactions, especially ones of vengeance and retaliation for others hurtful, wrong-doing done to us in a mean spirit. But again, forgiveness is a strong character trait of our best self, which is needed now more than ever. And once used, it becomes much easier to repeat later for better interpersonal relationships.

Please consider how you can apply these seven suggestions to take your current relationships from good to great during these stressful times.

“Getting along well with other people is still the world's most needed skill. With it...there is no limit to what person can do. We need people, we need the cooperation of others. There is very little we can do alone.” ~Earl Nightingale.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington; sport psychologist, photographer and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too,” “The Bow-Wow Secrets,” “Do What Matters Most,” “P Point Management,” “Reality Repair,” “Reality Repair RX,” “Thoughts on Happiness,” and “Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale.” He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or or