What Does It Mean to “Get Along?”

Dear Readers:

Recently, I’ve had several questions regarding why people seem to disagree about almost everything under the sun these days. And I have to admit, whether we’re talking about something as simple as weather preferences or as serious as politics, there does seem to be a distinct inability to agree on things lately. As one woman put it: “It seems like everyone doesn’t agree with me on everything. Why can’t we all just get along?”

It’s a good question: Why can’t we all get along? I do think there’s a reasonable answer to that question. And of course, I believe the Five Elements model will help us understand where the difficulties lie and, more importantly, how to help us all get along better. But before we start, let’s take a moment to define what it means to get along. At its core, getting along can mean something as simple as not fighting. Said in a positive way, that means peaceful coexistence. But technically, we could peacefully coexist with others if we just don’t interact with anyone. I go exist in my corner, you go exist in yours. Technically, we will be peacefully coexisting, but never connecting. There’s clearly more to it than that.

I think the real trick to getting along has to do with peacefully coexisting while interacting with each other. So, getting along might mean interacting in a positive, mutually beneficial way. Or even interacting in a way that benefits any whole of which we are all a part. This implies we all have an important part to play in the health and/or success of whatever whole we are discussing. A good example might be a choir. Some people sing soprano, others alto, others tenor, and even others sing bass. Sometimes we sing loudly, sometimes softly, and sometimes some parts don’t sing at all. But always, by design and agreement (and the way the music was written), the actions of each part are each taken for the greater good of the music itself. 

If true, this means getting along probably involves an ability to understand what matters to you in any given situation and what matters to the people around you. And of course, because for me everything is about the Five Elemental personalities, I believe it will help us all get along better if we can learn and remember what matters to the people around us. So, let’s take a quick look at what usually matters to each of the five elemental personalities.

The Water Personality: Water people care deeply about feeling connected to something bigger than themselves, whether a philosophic idea or movement, a church group, or even an active community of people making a difference for others. In nature, water has few boundaries and can flow almost anywhere it wants. Because of this fluidness, Water people often find that a connection to something bigger helps them better define their own sense of self. Other things that matter to the Water personality include quiet time for reading or artistic expression, discussing deep issues with a few select friends, and just pondering anything their mind can conceive. And it can conceive a whole lot because imagination sits in the Water element. This means that to get along with a Water person, it would be wise to respect not only their need for the time and space to be creative, but also their desire to engage with big, philosophic ideas or topics.

The Wood Personality: Wood people care about success and productivity. This is usually personal success and personal productivity, so getting ahead is important to Wood people. But a Wood person will also take it as a matter of pride to help any group of which they are part succeed in a big way. Wood people usually don’t shy away from putting their considerable energy behind something they believe to be important. They are also quick to stand up in the face of anything they perceive to be unfair and will frequently stop at nothing to right a perceived wrong. This means that to get along with a Wood person, remember to honor fairness and absolutely don’t stand in their way or try to stop them from accomplishing their task. You can redirect them, but giving them a flat “No!” or putting a brick wall in front of them will never, ever go over well.

The Fire Personality: Fire people care about excitement, attention, and connecting with others. They are at their best in a group of people having fun. But don’t think that Fire people are shallow – they are not. They are usually quick to notice when someone in a large group is off alone and will try to cajole them to join in the fun. Fire people thrive on connecting with others, although how long the connection lasts matters less than making it in the first place. Fire people also thrive on attention and like to be noticed. This means that to get along with a Fire person, don’t expect them to willingly stand on the sidelines of life or to be happy with “the same old, same old.” Offer them opportunities to engage and accept their need for excitement and change. If you can do this, you will not only get along with them, you will have a wonderful time.

The Earth Personality: Earth people often care about others more deeply than any of the other elemental personalities. It is in their wiring to help others. They are the nurses, teachers, and parents who are often willing to put their own needs aside in service to the needs of others. They also care deeply about long-term connections and will sacrifice a lot to keep these relationships together, especially families. Inclusiveness also matters to the Earth personality and they will take action to make sure anyone who wants to be included is include. In truth, Earth people are often the ones who care the most about everyone getting along. This means that to get along with an Earth person, the best thing you can do is to make sure that you encourage harmony and inclusion when you are with them. Oh, and food! Earth people usually love food!

 The Metal Personality: Metal people care about knowledge, protocol, and doing things the “right” way (at least as they see it). They are scholarly people who honor hierarchy and protocol, and are excellent at managing detail and minutia. Even though they are usually well-studied and wise, they are not often aloof and arrogant (although they can be). In truth, Metal people are often the kindest people around. However, because they are wise and often have a definite opinion of what is right, they can become fixated on the correct way to do almost everything. What will upset the Metal personality is dismissing them when they truly believe they know what is right. This means that to get along with a Metal person, honor their wisdom and experience. And if you disagree with them, do so respectfully and you will find them a willing listener because they are also incredibly reasonable people.

Well, I hope this helps us all find a few new ways to get along better with the people in our lives. My deepest wish is that as we make understanding each other and “getting along” a priority in our personal lives, it will spread to getting along better in larger and larger circles. Blessings to all!

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