For the 30 days following this blog’s five-year anniversary, I am reposting some favorite, popular, or unique posts. Feel free to contact me to suggest some of your favorites. If you’d like to comment, click through to the original post.
Here’s another post where I try to figure out why other people don’t act the way I expect them to. Who do they think they are?
It never fails to amaze me when I get an unreasonable response to a resonable request. Of course, being who I am, when I point out such disparities to the responder, it never seems to have an effect; they often only become more unresonable.
Often, the response is one of two things (or a combination of the two): first, to turn around and attack me, denigrate me for even bringing it up or calling attention to it, or second, to parse the language – the classic “that depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”
Among a group of friends, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s out of line to ask for an accommodation once in a while. And even then, it’s OK if the others decline. I’m fine with that. But what I don’t get is when I am blasted for even asking, like my asking was somehow so outrageous that I’m a selfish bastard for even bringing it up. In the most recent example of this the person chose the tactic of turning a discussion about this single event into a blanket statement for all time, ever, world without end amen. How is that reasonable?
It’s not that difficult to compromise, people. Here’s an example. My sister and her husband obviously enjoy different types of movies. Having two kids, they don’t get out to see movies all that often. If they had to agree on a movie that would satisfy them both every single time, they would end up arguing for so long that they would never get to the theater. So they have a compromise in place: they alternate choosing the movies. If they’re unsatisfied with the others’ choice, they know that next time they’ll get to choose. It works over the long run, and it’s based on trust. It works. Everybody gets a turn, everybody’s happy.
A key point in a compromise is mutuality: both sides have to concede something. When dealing with a single, one-time only event, then everyone would need to give up some ground. (BTW, if everyone agrees in the first place, it’s not a compromise; it’s a consensus, which is a different kettle of fish.) But when dealing with an ongoing series of events, then the concessions need to be looked at over the course of the series; for example, my example of my sister and her husband.
But back to the outrageous response to a reasonable request. How best to deal with people like that? I for one am flummoxed. If I’m right in principle and right in the facts, then I’m not going to back down. Being backed by the correct position and the prevailing facts should (I would hope) be enough to sway folks’ opinions. It’s not, though, and I have a difficult time comprehending why. And the more I look into this, the more I find that those who can’t be swayed by ethics or principle (which is, after all, the basis of negotiating a compromise) are, in fact, unreasonable and prone to all-or-nothing thinking. The kind of people who start to pick apart individual words and misread them in an attempt to make their point. Or the kind of people who look for others to side with them, hoping that by weight of opinions they can enforce a “majority view”. Or the kind of people who simply attack the other to provide cover for their outrageous actions.
My friends, those who trust me, know that I am capable of admitting I’ve made a mistake. I go out of my way to support my opinions and to make certain that I’m seeing and dealing with the world as it really exists, not as I wish it to be. I am self-correcting. And because of that, I’m OK with my friends pointing out when I’m wrong. It’s actually important for me, because I know that I’m automatically biased in favor of my own point of view, and often others can see things differently enough to point out what I’m missing.
But even when I’m wrong, I think I deserve a level of respect. I am often wearing my Easy-Going Guy Togs and go along with the prevailing view. However, when I request a change in plans, I would hope that my previous history of allowance would gain me some favor, some karma, some goodwill. Is that wrong? Do I set myself up for people to take advantage of my easy-going nature when I don’t speak up except once in a while? Perhaps I should consider that.
Because that’s what I feel like when this happens. I’ll go along, and go along, and go along, then make a request and suddenly I’m a heartless bastard. Gee, nobody complained when I was silent about doing things I wasn’t so enthused about; why complain now?
Damn, this is all about boundaries, isn’t it? The damn topic comes up too often. Is there a middle ground, where I can make it clear that a compromise is in force, so that later it seems less of a surprise when I ask for a change? Interpersonal communication is hard.
But, again, back to the outrageous responders: I recognize that I’m unable to change them, so for me, my typical response is to point out that they’re wrong and avoid them. I’ve got no particular compulsion to spend a lot of energy on them. Their mendacity is hugely draining. If there’s a better way to deal with them I will be happy to look for it but for the most part, I don’t need them and therefore don’t have any reason to give them more than I’m required by the social circumstances.