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Why it helps to listen to ‘older people’

Experience is the best teacher, so believe them when they say you can only change yourself, not others
/ 10:32 PM January 07, 2014

“He has changed”; “I thought things would get better as we went along”; “Why did someone not tell me about her from the start?”

How many times have we heard these lamentations from people we know? I myself have uttered similar words in a few past relationships.

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Mostly, you hear such sentiments from teenagers or other young people who are new to relationships. It has been said that experience is the best teacher, and this is what makes parents and other adults credible sources of advice.

Whether we have lived life perfectly or not, we can advise the youth with tidbits of wisdom learned through years of experience. I have learned quite a few things through almost 50 years of living and retrospection. I look honestly at what shortcomings I have had, and how I may have made things different.

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One of the biggest revelations is that many of the things my own parents and other adults told me when I was younger have been proven correct.

How much time, effort and even heartache I could have saved, if my teen brain had been open to “old people’s advice.” So now, I still listen and glean whatever information I can get from my seniors. I recognize that it is truly important. In turn, I also share knowledge with my kids and other youngsters when I can (if they are willing to listen).

I have been a father for 20 years and an actor for 24 years. Many young actors have played my children on television and in the movies. They ask for my advice for things like acting and such, but I have also been asked for opinion about their not-so-smooth relationships. I repeat to them the words of guidance that my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts gave me (with the addition of my own experiences).

In the present

See people as they really are, not what they could become someday in the future. Take a good, honest look at them, and then accept that that is how they are now. You may not like them for who they are today. You eat, breathe, live and love in the present, not in the future.

The big mistake that people make at the start of a relationship is to unrealistically see people as how we hope they will become someday. We see the other person through those notorious rose-tinted glasses, through which we see and magnify their good traits, and miss or minimize things that may not be to our liking. We see only what we want to see, and are blind to what we do not want to see.

This is the reason someone ends up with a certain person, while all their friends wonder how it happened. Then one day (hopefully after not too much pain and heartache), we wake up and see the reality of who they are and what they do to us. We wonder how they changed so much, when they may have been that way the whole time.

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This is the time your friends say things like, “I wanted to tell you but could not,” or “I wondered what you saw in him/her.” Often we may end up saying, “Mom was right, after all.”

Personality development trainer Marina Benipayo has often advised her students not to like a person just because he/she likes you. A person may like you or love you, but that does not mean he or she is right for you. Your friends may think that you and another friend are bagay, but that may only hold true visually. If your personality and upbringing clash, that is often a red flag.

We end up in trouble when we have unrealistic expectations of others. You cannot make a person a winner by being the most supportive cheerleader. The University of the Philippines cheerleading team has won multiple championships, but its basketball team has not won a title in a long time. One’s effort does not directly affect the other’s success.

Trust your intuition. We often know other people through this. The truth is the truth. I have found that my initial feeling about other people has often been right. Whenever I have second-guessed my intuition and given people the benefit of the doubt, I have suffered.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you can help a person change. This is the puppy-dog syndrome, in which we think we can sympathize with a misunderstood individual and help in his or her self-realization. It is not your job to reform other people. That is their job. If you make it your responsibility, your efforts are doomed to fail.

Do not measure your own worth as a person based on how much you can help improve other people. If they do not reach your standards, you may end up resenting them, when they are just being themselves. They will also resent you for insisting that they make the changes that you want.

The only person that you can actually change is yourself. If you want a good life, you should work on yourself to be the best that you can be. Studies show that you can change someone else by just 5 percent, but you can change yourself by 50 percent. Encourage and love others, but let them work on their own improvement. Your own growth is where you should concentrate your efforts.

Other people will learn to be better when they are ready to learn. You are free to believe in people’s potential to become their best. But see and accept other people as they are.

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