Person to Person: Learn to get the good out of people

In an argument, it pays to take a step back, let some of the tension cool down and take a fresh look. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Do you scratch your head trying to figure people out? Maybe someone you’ve been friends with for years is kicking up some conflict. Or, a person you’ve really trusted seems a little off center.

Most of us have been in a rocky boat with family members, business associates or a dating partner. Our spouses can sometimes pull some real surprises as well.

However, it pays to take a step back, let some of the tension cool down, and take a fresh look. We need to give people room to change and grow, go through some odd experiences, readjust their own thinking, and discover what feels right to them.

It pays to stop expecting continual smooth sailing in relationships. Instead, we have to create some breathing room. Learning to get the “good” out of people usually works. To do this, focus on their strengths and what those strengths bring to your own life.


Here are types of flaws people can have:

  • People can withhold important truths. Your sister, for example, might seem to keep critical information to herself. But, the real truth might be that she has trouble trusting people.
  • Some individuals won’t reveal any of their own weaknesses. For instance, your brother might constantly need small loans from you. But, he might resist telling you he’s deeply in debt.
  • Some people may ask too much of you. These individuals are constantly rocking your boat and invading your personal time. It’s hard to set limits with them, for fear they’ll end their relationship with you.

“People we care about can drive us nuts,” says an employee assistance program counselor we’ll call Sam. “We waste hours guessing what they’re up to.”
Sam insists that it’s easier to manage a relationship by setting boundaries and learning to get the good out of people. “Deal with their flaws, as best you can, and stay inside your own skin,” he advises.

Ending a relationship altogether is seldom a good idea. If someone is stealing money from you or doing something crazy, of course you have to end the relationship.

“But,” Sam emphasizes, “Usually, we can change something about our own methods of dealing with a person and get the good out of the relationship. It doesn’t have to end.”

Remember, too, that if someone withholds important information or tells outright lies, this is not acceptable.

But, you can distance yourself and wait to see if someone changes. For instance, shyness, fear, and personal anxieties driving a person will come across as red flags. But, over time, the odd behavior can work out.

“My sister was dealing with a husband who was cheating,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Shanna. “She acted so strange over a six-month period, I was tearing my hair out. Once she caught him, she filed for divorce and came to me for help. People can mess up their relationship with you, if they’re in a mess with someone else. Patience is key to ironing things out.”

Always focus on the strengths of people in your circle. One friend might be a great babysitter for your kids while another helps you find good vacation deals. While you don’t want to “use” people, you do want to count on them for your own needs.


No one can function on their own in this world. We all need a variety of people. Besides, life is much more interesting if we have a little bit of drama going on.

Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, “Cooling Stress Tips.” She is also executive director of USA Wellness Café at . Emma Hopson is a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist. ©2020 Person to Person. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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