The First Step to Getting Along

The first step to getting along is wanting to get along.

This sounds simple, but it is actually the most difficult step in conflict resolution. Many people don’t really want to get along, they just want the other side to change. To bend to their will. So they point the finger, blame the other for the relationship’s problems, unwilling to take actions within their own power to improve the situation. This is the recipe for conflict and the antidote to resolution.

Take the broken marriage that is currently American politics. Neither the Left nor the Right wants to get along. And until both sides share this desire, partisan fighting will endure.

What does it mean to want to get along?

Simple. Prioritize the success of the relationship over everything else.

In practice, it’s more complicated. Many relationships will never yield enough of a benefit to overcome psychological costs. But the political relationship is entirely unique, because there is no escape option. There is no “choose not to spend time together” button. We either get along or fight it out on this rock that we share.

In that sense, conversation is an alternative to violence. And now, discourse is evaporating, a sign of the mutual desire to not want to get along. When this happens in romantic relationships and particularly familial ones, it is a prescursor to heartache, lawsuits and violence.

At a certain point you have to ask yourself what’s better: getting your way, or peacefully coexisting?