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Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Humans as Pets, and Casanova's Unremarkable Pizza
Here is another snippet from a letter I wrote someone today, on the topic of interacting with people:
When you stop expecting people to be reasonable, it becomes much easier to deal with them.
Be very sensitive to other people's defensiveness, and never push against it. Almost no one is prepared to have someone else discover or point out their flaws to them, so they will instead get angry and find you stupid and arrogant. When you believe someone else is wrong, do your best to get them to clarify their point as opposed to pointing out where they are wrong. If they've just made some simple mistake, they may correct themselves given the chance, but if you point out their error they are likely to continue arguing a stupid point and then they're really primed to get angry and ultra defensive.
It is a hard thing to realize how insecure almost all people are, especially Phds and doctors and the like. Many of those people became what they are simply to give themselves value in lieu of true inner confidence.
Even if you don't see it, even if you don't believe it, try it as a game. Simon's rules of social success: Realize (or pretend) that everything you say will be felt deeply by everyone around you, and choose your words accordingly. Realize that everyone you are talking to is increadibly insecure, and that they need to feel valuable and respected. Realize that most people are not rational or consistent in their own beliefs, and are not prepared to be. Most importantly of all, have (or pretend to have) so much inner confidence yourself that you do not need to defend your person or your beliefs -- always think of your interactions with others in terms of how it will effect their emotions, never in terms of protecting your own.
I.e., treat them as pets, take responsibility for their emotional state, and coddle them into giving you the best results you can rationally (not over-optimistically) expect from them. In a sense, I am advocating treating them with respect, and behaving yourself as if you get respect (not as if you deserve it, but as if it is a given that they respect you, so you don't need to defend that!). The only not-quite-rational thing here is that you are respecting their emotions and being rather than their logic.
Don't debate with people as if truth wins an argument. You'll just make enemies.
Again, the thing to remember with all of these interactions: Work as hard as you can to remove your own ego from the situation. Don't feel you are on stage and have to perform, nor under the spotlight and have to defend. Be aware of your surroundings, and of the people in them. Think of yourself as a Zen Bhuda. :)
It's very hard to do. It's very easy to get sucked into worrying about your own image, and to not realize until you get home that you spent the whole evening doing that. It's fine to reflect on your image once in a while, to tend to it, to present yourself as you wish to be presented; but you must do all of that in an impartial manner, from a third-person's perspective, so that you don't get wrapped up in the emotionalism of defending your own ego.
The black cat likes to gallop from one end of the house to the other, chasing nothing in particular, and each strike of his paw is a mallet that resonates the deck like a small wooden drum. One-two-three One-two-three One-two-three, in very rapid succession like a miniature horse racing along the deck, Garrett* and I laugh. "Yee Haw! Ride'em Kitty!" I yell.
Later, we hear the same pattern zooming accross the roof.
The Go game continues...
We finally tried the pizza at Casanova's that everyone keeps recomending. It wasn't that special. But I guess on an island that invented Spam sushi, this is gourmet. The waiter openned a champagne bottle at the next table, and the cork let loose, ricocheted off the cieling and then a mirror and whacked Garrett* in the back of the head hard enough that Garrett* promptly gave the waiter a punch in the arm. The event seeded jokes for the rest of the evening.
Accross the room from us, a mom and her five year old daughter were tackling a pizza, and I had to laugh when I looked over to see the little girl eating a slice bigger than her head, holding it high with her fists firmly gripping the two free corners of the crust as if she were determined to eat the whole thing in a couple of bites.
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