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    Something to Think About: Telling sweet from sour

close up of a freshly sliced mango fruit

How to deal with difficult people.

Dear friend,

I have had a very long love affair with mangoes. Yet I can’t always tell the sweet ones from the sour. Color isn’t always a good guide. Some mangoes are perfectly ripe when green; others turn yellow, orange, or red by the time their mealy starches turn into simple sugars. Fragrance and consistency are a bit more reliable. A perfectly ripe one often has an appetizing, sweet fragrance, particularly near the stem end. A mango turning from firm to soft also provides a helpful hint. Of all the tests, however, the most definitive is the obvious one—eat a slice. I either taste heaven or regret the loss of a dollar.

My most common response to a sour mango is to escort it to the garbage can, wash my mouth, and try the next one, hoping it will be lush with fructose. I keep trying until I find one that is willing to pamper my palate.

I wonder if our relationships are also like that. Many of your colleagues, friends, and loved ones are sweet, but some are definitely sour. You can’t spot the sour ones ahead of time. When you face such people, you minimize the time you spend with them, try your best so they don’t linger in your mind, and as soon as the opportunity presents itself, move on to someone sweeter.

But what to do with those sour ones you cannot avoid? They may be close family members or neighbors. If you are hungry and have nothing but sour mangoes to eat, what are you going to do? Here is what I do.

I sprinkle the slices with sugar or honey. I know the sour taste won’t go away, but I’ll feel less of it. The slices become more palatable. Most manufacturers of syrupy preparations for children know this trick very well.

On sour people you sprinkle the honey of gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness, recognizing and knowing fully well that their inherent nature is unlikely to change.

I wish the world was perfect and every mango was fully ripe. But the world isn’t perfect, and none of us will escape facing sour specimens. With over four hundred varieties of mangoes on the market, I will run into the unpleasant ones once in a while. My only option is to avoid the sour mangoes best I can, savor the sweet, ripe ones, and if I’m faced with a sour one that I can’t avoid, sprinkle some sugar or honey on it.

May you have few or no difficult people in your life; may the difficult people not usurp your hope or lower your values.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2

Read Sweet Mangoes and previous blog posts.

Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.