Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Acquired Taste

I'm what you might call an acquired taste.

Some would say that I get "annoying at times". OK, pretty much anyone who knows me would say that. Some might even go so far as to use phrases such as "inspires homicidal thoughts." The thing is that my attributes that people find so, err, inspirational are all ones that you might consider to be "good".
  • I pay attention and listen carefully to what people say.
  • I follow all the threads of a conversation (including the non-sequiturs) and can roll them back up when a main thread gets lost.
  • I tend to trust people and take them at face value.
  • I notice missing details and inconstancies, and then ask about them.
  • I quickly buy into someone's stated intentions and try to help facilitate them.
  • I have more energy than the energizer bunny.
  • I sincerely want the best for people.
  • I believe without a doubt that open and direct communication is the best way to go.
  • Not being a respecter of title or position, I'm the same person with everyone.
  • I never give up.

Taken in part, many (if not all) of these attributes sound pretty good, right? However, bring them together and well... engagement leads to discomfort leads to annoyance leads to homicidal thoughts.

You might say that I'm gifted in that regard. If you could make millions unearthing and pushing buttons all the time thinking, "Wow, I wonder what this one does?", I'd have more guitars and keyboards than I could ever hope to play.

Lately, I've been trying to figure out ways to better manage my interactions with folks without compromising who I want to be. I've been trying to become more palatable. So far, I'm pretty bad at it.

The best solution I've encountered was offered by Iris who suggested the installation of an On/Off button, preferably one that could be accessed quickly and easily, e.g., a Staples "That Was Easy!" button in the middle of my forehead.

Outside of that, I've been working on techniques such as ignorance. For example...

Ignore the fact that a fifty-year-old guy just mentioned for the eleventh time in four minutes and twenty-six seconds that his absence of self-confidences goes back to something that his dad said to him when he was eight.

Or... ignore how whenever you ask her what she thinks, she first looks to him before answering.

Or... ignore all the inconstancies in timeline and detail that by comparison would make Mark Kaufman seem organized and congruent.

Or... ignore that someone has consistently responded to questions regarding the basis of his assertions with restatements of his credentials.

Or... ignore how she consistently refocuses the conversation on her by pivoting on any number of keywords.

The problem with actively ignoring something is that I become hyper-focused on the object of my ignorance. I end up with this buildup of unasked questions and unstated observations. They bounce around in my head like water molecules dancing in a tea kettle until the pressure reaches the tipping point and they race through the first conversational-opening like the shrill whistle announcing the boiling point.

Ignorance doesn't work, at least not for me.

I've also tried silence. I follow the conversation as I would normally, but simply don't say anything. This too is fraught with challenges. First of all, I've only managed verbal silence; my body language tends to be quite loud, and I still haven't got the knack of controlling non-verbal utterances, sighs, etc. Second, even my verbal silence is short-lived, I can go maybe ten minutes before I find myself raising my hand requesting permission to ask a 'simple' question. Sigh...

Ignorance and silence having failed me, I've tried avoidance, although I must admit, I'm not always the instigator of this technique being applied. Avoidance works great as long as you have no reason to interact, but when you do, well... I guess avoidance isn't really a solution.

Finally, I've tried distraction, or perhaps more accurately, others have tried distraction on me. This is also quite effective as long as the evening ends before the distraction. If not, then without fail I roll everything back to the point of distraction and pick up where we left off.

Hmmm...

There of course is the obvious question of manner. I know that if my manner is calm and easy people perceive it as loving and accepting. I'm pretty good at this until I begin getting excited about the topic of conversation or the hunt for answers. When I do, my self-awareness does a quick exit stage-left and I have no clue as to the wild-eyed demon that people see before them. That one is going to take practice on my part and I'm not sure that there are enough resilient people around for me to get any good at it.

In the mean time, there are people for whom the balance of annoyance and pleasure seems to be tipping to the pleasure side. In the mean time.


Happy Wednesday,
Teflon

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