York University

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What is costlier, a personal or interpersonal problem?

Now, of course both can go hand in hand, but it is specifically the management of these types of problems that I'd like this debate to be about.

There are all kinds of personal issues that a person deals within the personal domain. Say, for example, having a weight problem. It is instantiated physically but splinters into all kinds of negative consequences for one's self-esteem and worth. In dealing with this one has to look more inwards than anything, and find a resolve in the form of increasing some activity or resisting another, or both. Oftentimes these issues can be solved by following sound advice and getting strong support.

Interpersonal problems are disputes found in one's social network of family, friends, and colleagues. In dealing with these you have to really apply your communication skills and test your character for tolerance and compassion. What it fundamentally comes down to is not always getting another person to come around to your way of thinking, but on average you find yourself having to meet other people halfway on theirs. This can take a toll, and is historically harder to do than simply following your "inner voice".

This is the crux of this debate. And I'd like to see if we can have a discussion on what people believe in regards to the weight of each problem. It's great to have control over how you deal with an issue, but taking the wrong advice can lead you too far astray and possibly result in a maladjustment. In this case it seems it is riskier dealing with personal issues. However, attempting to reconcile with another person may bring out deeper issues and result in a lot more stressful experiences such as confrontation and even hatred for another.

Can you make the case for one being a deeper issue than the other?

  • Dec 28 2011: To Luis,

    It is fair to say that one should be more active and rigorous in how they deal with personal problems, than interpersonal problems. I think where the conversation goes from here is the risk involved with that, and whether it is justified to treat yourself with more of a magnified lens when you are unsure if an interpersonal problem is actually more of a personal problem that another person has. What's the call on that?
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      Dec 28 2011: I think I get what you mean. That is, in a interpersonal problem, who is finally guilty, you or the other person?

      Well, reviewing my personal past problems with other people, I have always found a point of guilty in myself, even in subtle details, such as my own frustration, being in a bad mood, showing weakness in front of people I shouldn't have, trusting people too soon... Those are details I have learned a lot at this point of my life, in the past I blamed everybody but me.

      In the other hand, the other person can have its own issues. Something I have learned is that it is fruitless and even counterproductive giving some advice no requested, although your intention would be good. Real love and friendship helps you to overcome the issues of both of you. For me the point of breaking a relationship is the lack of respect, it doesn't worth spending more time trying to help someone who doesn't listen and look down on me. Sometimes it is real hard because you love the other person, but for me it will less painful in the future.
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    Dec 28 2011: Just to be simplistic, all personal problems become interpersonal problems, because how we view ourselves affects how we view others. The interpersonal dynamic is altered by the personal dynamic of each person.

    I'm not sure if we can truly attach a weighted importance to either, because they are so intricately linked. However I do believe that we can in no way change how another person feels about themselves: each individual is ultimately responsible for their personal dynamic. We all, however, can improve (or inhibit) the interpersonal dynamic.

    So I can't make a case for one being deeper than another. I will say that it is much easier to improve interpersonal relationships when we have settled our own personal issues, so I'd probably make the case for fixing ones self before trying to fix one's relationships with others.

    Is that sort of what you were wanting?
    • Dec 28 2011: You've raised an interesting point about which to deal with first if they are interrelated. The standard thinking is that you cannot be comfortable with another person if you are not comfortable with who you are. But I think that is an outdated way to look at it. Now, people are more encouraged to be self-accepting, and more often than not choose to accept some part of themselves as a flaw they cannot change. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is prominent in the western individualist society that is growing in its influence. So now, do you look at that a forced self-acceptance that is bound to reveal itself later in the form of other personal problems, could that not possibly spill over into interpersonal problems? I should probably give an example before I go any further. I suppose a situation such as inhibiting envy would be problematic if you just acknowledge it passively and say to yourself that it is just a character flaw you have. Confronting it personally, asking why it exists within you to have envious feelings for another individual is probably harder than just letting it pass. So it is likely that is will happen again, and potentially be more intense than before resulting in interpersonal conflicts. So in that sense, it is probably better to deal with the personal issue first, actively, that is.
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        Dec 29 2011: Let me make sure I understand: you state that the idea that a person have resolved their personal issues in order to have healthy interpersonal relationships is an outdated concept because current Western thought encourages people to be self-accepting. This is because we prize individuality.

        As far as your example of envy of another: yes, we should try to understand the reasons why we envy. If we envy somebody else, then we have established a relationship with them that is unhealthy. Our relationship will be based on, and centered around, that which we want from them (their looks, their skills, their personality - whatever it is that we envy in them) - Envy only comes when we feel incomplete in ourselves. If we feel complete, there is nothing that we would envy in another, and we can base our relationship on what we can accomplish by working together, not just what we wish we could derive from another.

        To tie both together, I think our culture of individuality and blind self-acceptance actually weakens us, because it devalues true personal self-introspection. If we are conditioned to believe that what we think and feel and do is perfectly fine, then we are allowing our narcissism to blind us to the reality that not everything we think and feel and do is perfectly fine. I think our culture needs to be a bit more realistic in that all of us are works that are constantly in flux, and that we need a healthy "reality check" every other day, just to make sure we don't fly off into sheer megalomania.

        Not to say that we should wallow in self-doubt. But back to the original point: Personal dilemmas are much costlier, because they affect our interpersonal relationships. We must be honest with ourselves, true to ourselves, love ourselves - before we can be honest with, true to, and love others.
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    Dec 28 2011: For me, both problems are important, but like everything has to have a beginning, I would prioritize personal problems.

    Any issue you have with yourself such us low self-steem, you don't like your body, frustration... will lead you to unhappiness. All your personal issues will affect your relationsships, so first you have to fix yourself.

    Relationships are not easy, but necessary. Based in the idea of you being the most important for you, for me, you never have to let anybody look down on you, the same way you should not look down on anybody. As a responsible way of dealing with my relationships, I always try to look for my responsibility in any issue, and in the same way, I have learned that I don't have to try to change anybody, but I am responsible for choosing who I am with.