Doers, Un-Doers, and Non-Doers

I was part of a conversation recently about how different people deal with conflict and perceived wrongs. One of my neighbors described himself as a ‘doer’- someone who would argue a point aggressively to save face, and become violent when pressed. He said that he would argue a point even if he were wrong in order to avoid being pushed around or looked upon as weak.

My ‘doer’ neighbor then went on to describe myself and the other gentleman present as ‘talkers’ who used words to assert and defend ourselves, and always tried to make sure we had the moral high ground. While the other gentleman agreed to my neighbor’s assessment, I remained quiet and thought about this.  Continue reading

Reverence for Words

I have a proper reverence for guns. They are incredible tools that feed the hunter and protect the vulnerable. They are also incredible weapons, defeating armies, oppressing entire populations, and killing men from great distances.

My handling of guns reflects my appreciation for their power and the potential danger they represent. I would not toss my pistol to you from across a crowded room. I would probably not hand it over without checking the breach, the safety, and ensuring you knew how to properly handle a weapon. I would certainly not fire my pistol wildly in public, or fire it at you when you made me mad.  Continue reading

What’s In A Word

Could you please…? Thank you. … Oh, I’m sorry… How are you? … I’m fine.

I’ve noticed something that I, and many others, do quite a bit- we use words without intending the actual meaning of the word, or without even knowing the actual meaning of the word.

I’ll start with the word please. I, like many others, have been taught that we must say please as a matter of etiquette when requesting something, and sometimes even when commanding something. From what I have come to understand (and others may have a different spin on this), the use of the word ‘please’ is a shortening of the phrase ‘if it would please you.’ So, the word please has changed into something often used to obligate the recipient to submit to the request/command. This is a complete reversal from the concession-like nature of the original meaning- that a person need only feel obligated to do what pleases them.

The next important word(s?) whose meaning is all-too-often neglected is thank youThank is etymologically related to think- as in ‘I am conscious of the meaning and value of what you have done’. However, these days, many simply speak the word without pausing mentally to actually appreciate what exactly they are thankful of and its meaning and value. Thank yous have become another empty social ritual.

Another, less used but equally important, word is sorry. Countless times as a child, and even as an adult, I have spoken the word because custom and etiquette demanded it in certain situations. However, I couldn’t count how many times I have spoken it without actually meaning it (at least not at the time it was uttered). From what I have come to understand (again, someone may disagree), the word sorry is another shortening of a phrase. In the original sense, sorry meant that the speaker was sore- was hurting and felt bad- that they had wronged someone, as in ‘I’m sore that I’ve hurt you.’

I have noticed that even some phrases that are commonly spoken are used without any meaning. How many times have I heard (or myself) used the question ‘how are you?’ as a quick greeting, or in passing. I have often myself, and I’ve seen others, kept walking after asking the question of someone I encountered while out. If I am really interested in hearing how someone is doing, I will stop moving and listen to their response. Otherwise, it is just lip service- It’s like I’ll ask the question to keep up appearances of interest, but really you’re not worth the time it would take to hear your response.

This leads me to the next bit of empty communication. If someone has asked me how I am doing, and I am able, doesn’t it make sense to invest the bit of time it takes to tell them? If they’ve asked, then, on face value, they are interested in how things are with me. Am I so uninterested in them that they don’t warrant a sincere response? ‘Fine’ and ‘Good’ are largely meaningless as responses. When I ask my friend how they are doing, it is because I know a thing or two about their life, and I’m interested in how those things collectively and individually are going for them.

As I write this, I wonder if somewhere along the way, as the use of these words and phrases was drilled into me by parent, teacher, and culture, could the actual lesson to be conveyed have been lost? Perhaps the lesson a child is meant to be taught is not that they should use these words, but what it means to use them. Indeed, that lesson is one I intend to try to teach myself.

‘Small talk’ and using my manners don’t need to be meaningless.

I, Me, My

This post is somewhat of a personal/diary-like nature. I just needed to write about what’s on my mind.

Up until about 4 years ago, I was not the ‘healthiest’ person, emotionally, and in terms of my ability to function in relationships. I was very codependent, insecure, and, in less-than-obvious ways, I was controlling and manipulative. I wasn’t so bad that the average person, including myself, would pick up on the problems, but they were there. My partner, at the time, had already done a great deal of work on herself, and was in a very healthy place. My dysfunctions, while subtle to everyone else, starkly contrasted with her own functioning.

I did a great deal of work on myself during that relationship. I spent many hours and dollars getting myself to her healthier level of functioning, and pursuing goals beyond the scope of our romantic relationship. I paid a therapist to be my relationship and communication coach. Not wanting to waste my money (he wasn’t cheap), or forget his advice, I wrote out and codified everything he told me.

My journey of healing and growth didn’t end with my romantic relationship, or when I stopped seeing the therapist. I have continued, to this day to record and codify anything useful I read or observe. I have a list that has grown to about 90 principles, practices, and boundaries, over the last four years.

Onto my point. One of my most commonly used and beneficial tools I learned to apply through that time was ‘I’ statements. Instead of saying ‘you’, whether in reference to my audience or people in general, I generally speak only about myself. The danger in the use of ‘you’, I have found, is that I am often either projecting my values, perceptions, or ideas onto my audience, or I am generalizing (which sometimes includes indirectly projecting onto my audience).

Immediately, the benefit is that I am not putting anyone in a position where they need to disagree with something I am projecting onto them, or onto another group of people they care for. Besides this wonderful benefit, though, is that no one can argue with me about what I am saying. I have an inalienable right to say and think whatever I want about myself.

Both of the major benefits of ‘I’ statements helps to prevent a break down of communication, and keeps a relationship safer from misunderstandings.

Here’s the problem. I am starting to really find it hard/distasteful to talk about myself. When friends ask me how I’m doing, I know they’re interested in what’s going on in my life, especially the good stuff, but it is getting harder to relate it. There is so much that is going right for me lately, but I am shying away from discussing what is going right in my life because of what is going right in my life.

What going right is that there is more and more congruence between my values and my behavior and lifestyle. The issue is that my values tell me that it’s more important that I know you and understand you, than for you to know me. My beliefs tell me that much of what makes me ‘me‘ is illusion and dysfunction. The ‘me’ that I am ‘returning‘ to, is smaller and smaller, and less concerned with my own life, with less about me to relate.

Even writing about all this causes me some feeling of anxiety- even though this blog is completely anonymous for me. I am second-guessing writing about me and my ideas.

I don’t know if it’s natural, but as I stop focusing on me, I find myself also focusing on individual relationships much less. Simultaneously, i find my ‘social life’ broadening. My relationships with my ‘friends’ are not as deep or close on a constant basis anymore, while my associations with everyone else are becoming deeper and more genuine. It feels good, but I am weary at the same time.

All this leads me to another thing I have noticed that has been on my mind. As I leave people even greater room to talk about themselves and their ideas, I have noticed a common theme among many. I try not to judge, and I try to accept it, but I have noticed that many of my peers boast about themselves, and compare themselves to others, in almost every conversation I have with them.

This boasting about themselves contrasts so starkly with what I am starting to practice more and more, that it pushes me even further away from talking about myself. I don’t generally make any conscious judgments, but I can’t help feel put off by it now whenever someone starts doing it. I stick with them and continue conversing, but it is a determent from socializing with them next time.

It is a forced thing right now, to be open and friendly to all, yet accept and listen to the self-righteousness and boasting of many. I have yet to discover a balance that satisfies my values and doesn’t leave me put off. Do I tell others I am interested more in hearing about them and their ideas, and not their comparisons of themselves to other people? Perhaps that’s it. It may put some people off, but ultimately might improve the harmony between us- and the exchange of genuine and mutually beneficial communication.

Wouldn’t it be tacit approval of the behavior if I just listen attentively, without redirecting, when someone starts boasting and comparing? But then, if I try to redirect, isn’t that contending with the way they are? Perhaps it’s about finding the right ‘pivot’ in the conversation…

Them “I am so much better than so-and-so at fixing cars!”

Me (they seem interested in cars…) “What’s your favorite car to work on?”

Them “I like working on Ford cars. One time this guy brought in a Mustang…”

That would work. In this hypothetical scenario, I turned the conversation, using cars as the pivot, and exerting as little force as possible. Harmony maintained.

Now to apply that in real life.

I guess, when people want me to talk about me, I could tell them what I’m enjoying- “I’m really enjoying this great book I found…, have you read it?”, or, “I’m loving the warm weather. Are you taking advantage of it?”

I guess, when I talk about myself, instead of saying what I like/think, I could say what I like hearing/talking about. …

Off to a Town Hall meeting.

This post ended up HUGE. I feel better, having expressed my feelings and thoughts on these things. Anyone who read any of it, thank you for ‘listening’. 🙂