Only you know yourself best

By Sandhya Sivakumar, Columnist

In the midst of college and the never ending whirlwind of homework and midterms and somehow more homework and more midterms, sometimes it’s hard to remember there are problems that aren’t academic. Interpersonal drama is usually 10 times less important than your next exam, but somehow 30 times as stressful.

It’s easy to write off conflict as a momentary blip, and it usually is. I’m definitely a “this too shall pass” kinda person. But when you’re in the middle of it, when it’s been days and you’re still a little tense when you come home, that seemingly irrelevant piece of drama feels indomitable. Because I like to fix problems, drama with my friends can take over my whole life. I’ll think about it constantly. I’ll dream about it. I’ll write columns about it.

I know it’s impossible to solve every problem, but it’s equally as impossible to just accept that every problem can’t be solved. People are never going to be forced into place like clothes folded neatly in the closet. No amount of planning or foresight can predict a problem when you didn’t have all the information in the first place. Sometimes, people are just fundamentally different, and trying to bridge the gap between inherently conflicting styles of communication is an uphill battle at best.

According to a 2013 study on interpersonal relationships, nonverbal cues can be important turning points in relationships. However, relationships can sour when nonverbal behaviors are misinterpreted. For example, touch is a great indicator of a positive relationship, but a lack of touch isn’t necessarily an indicator of a problem, or an absence of closeness. Similarly, silence on the part of someone you’re having a serious conversation with might mean that they just don’t care; it could also show that they’re simply taking the time to articulate their emotions.

Despite these barriers, I don’t think the best option is ever to give up and stop trying. Even if my efforts go to waste, the idea of knowing that I could have done something to fix a problem, but didn’t, is so much worse than investing time and energy on a problem without a solution.

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The only real impossibility is solving interpersonal issues on your own. You can’t plan out the resolution to a conflict with other people like a diplomatic treaty. Trying to figure out how someone else is feeling from inside your own brain isn’t just futile; it can actively work against a real understanding of the other person. You’ve already constructed a heuristic in your mind, and any further information only serves to alter a fundamentally flawed framework, instead of reconstructing it from the ground up.

Your feelings are just that: yours and only yours. The reality of our existence as individuals is that we will never truly know anyone else with the certainty, complexity and honesty with which we know ourselves.

Sandhya is a sophomore in LAS.

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