Nov 29, 2016

Keeping Counsel

Something people often misunderstand about you:

This is something, ironically, that only those who know me pretty well would misunderstand.  Those who only know me casually would be blithely unaware of it.  And those who are the absolute closest to me--my immediate family, my wife, my closest and oldest friends don't misunderstand me.  It's the middle group of people that know me pretty well (but not intimately) that I often feel misunderstand me.

I think people may believe I'm insincere sometimes.  I think this comes about for two reasons.  First, I don't like conflict and don't see any point in engaging in conflict unless I feel that the conflict will bring about some positive and effective change.  I think this is rare.  Most times if you air your grievances with someone, all it does is create more bad feelings (This is distinct, in my mind from working through differences with someone  with whom you have a close and trusting relationship).  I'm convinced that most people won't be "told" and don't benefit from being "set straight."  So I generally don't engage in "telling it like it is."  (I unpacked that in a  blog entry several years ago in an entry entitled "Straight Talk About Telling it Like It Is.")

Second, I tend to look for common ground.  So if I disagree with some aspect of a persons behavior or ideas, I will disregard that and look for areas where I can agree.  I try to see things from others'  point of view, and I usually find a perspective that I can understand and appreciate. So I choose to focus on that common ground.  One positive result of this approach is that I find I like most people.  I honestly can't think of anyone that I truly hate even though I know and interact with some very difficult people.  In most cases, it's possible to find something to like and appreciate in almost anyone.

People will sometimes ask me: if you disagree with X on topic A, why don't you tell them? Or if you don't like Y's behavior or attitude, why don't you let them know?  My answer is "What good would it do?" and "Well I don't disagree or dislike everything about Person X or Y, so since confronting them about what I don't like would serve no other purpose then to indulge my own sense of righteousness, why not focus on what I do agree with or like."  I think this often comes across as being "fake" or insincere. But I think if we're honest, I'm only different in style, not substance from most people in this regard.  Rare is the person that truly doesn't care about the outcome of their social interactions or regularly unloads whatever negative thoughts they might have to and about everyone they know.

And if you really don't care if your interactions are productive or not and are only too happy to let everyone know everything you think, I'm not particularly impressed.

Not that I'd tell you that, of course.

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