When People Won’t Cooperate

What do we really mean when we say people won’t cooperate?

Frankly, it means they don’t want to, and often won’t, do what WE want them to do. Yet we interpret that to mean they’re “bad” people. Oh, she’s so stubborn! Gosh, he’s selfish! Oh, they never help with anything!

As a general rule, what we want isn’t necessarily good for the other person, let alone convenient. They may have been very sick for years, even more ill than we know, because they are private people who don’t whine a lot. They may have family and/or job stresses driving them to despair, and so need far more sleep than they are getting, just to survive. They may not want strangers in their house due to housekeeping circumstances currently beyond their control.

When a concerned and knowledgeable parent, seasoned schoolteacher, trained lifeguard or peace officer asks or tells us what to do, we’d better cooperate FAST! But we’re not under any actual obligation to do what other people push in our faces. We can consider their demands, of course, but that’s all. (And I’m not talking about military DI’s here. They live in another universe, of necessity.)

Following the Rules

If we want to be accepted into an exclusive club, we follow club rules, petty as they sometimes are. If we don’t care about snobbery, we at least all belong to a tribe. Sometimes we belong to several tribes: family, religion, work, and so forth. This has been true since the early days of humanity. Because we want to stay within the tribe, we follow enough of the requirements that we’re allowed to remain.

On the other hand, if we’re more of a loner by nature or don’t like people knowing all our business, we might tell the tribe “I’m outta here!”. We then pack up and leave. It’s a rocky road without a tribe to support us and many don’t survive alone in the wilderness, but often, they’ve been driven out by the attitudes and behaviors of others. So the tribe must share the responsibility for whatever happens.

Time Changes Us All

As the years pass, we become less and less tolerant of being ordered around or assigned to responsibilities without being given the opportunity to refuse because whatever it is makes no sense. Or we know the landscape better than the person(s) making the changes.

Most people need to get off the endlessly spinning hamster wheel that is life in a first world country. Even the saying, “Be anxiously engaged in good work” does not equal staggering around with a heavy backpack because there aren’t enough helpers to go around. No, not even if we’re on Valium or Paxil to handle the stress of what others demand. We all need to take care of our own health before other people break us. Some of us get a lot of practice at saying, “No” because people don’t listen the first or second or third time we say it.

Finally, it’s quite insulting to be told by a naïve slip of a girl, “Thank you for cooperating.” Seriously?! Would you have the temerity to say that to your mother or grandmother? I certainly wouldn’t but I suppose the Gen-Y’s and Gen-Z’s have a different definition of respect.

Regardless, when people don’t choose to “cooperate” as we see it, there is usually a valid reason. Almost never does it mean they are bad people. Even if we think they need to turn outward, they will do so at their own time and place, not ours. At any time, they will do what they can do, not what we think they should do.

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