If it takes two to tango, why not salsa dance?

by phil on Tuesday Apr 1, 2003 10:52 PM

I was having dinner with my best friend from third grade and I asked myself, "in 3rd grade, how the heck did this guy become and stay my best friend?" It couldn't have been that he just so happened to be sitting next to me in class; there have been lots of people that I've sat next to who haven't become friends. It couldn't have been that I chose him; think about it, a 10-year old pondering, "hmm, this person has qualities I identify with and therefore I'm going to hang out with him." Sorry, dosen't hold water. And it can't just be random selection and us then sticking together; if it were, then the only way it could stick day after day would be through personal hard work--and you know how children are, they don't make conscious lunges toward anything.

So it must be more like I had personality X and he had a personality Y such that X and Y compatible types. Then, in an alphabet soup of personalities in one classroom, given enough time and interaction, the pairs unite, realtionships form, and finally, best friends emerge. It's not THAT simple. You have to throw in some other fun imperatives, such as insecurity due to lack of friends forcing those with no friends to make way into groups. There's also the compromising gene. Don't forget other hidden variables such as interference from the teacher--teachers work hard to disincubate "columbine" loners.

Sure, all of this is obvious--or rather unobvious because we don't think about it; developing friendships isn't a mystery and isn't interesting. What is interesting, is, given the way I presented it, consider this: what if you changed from X to Z. I know it's hard to change who you are inside, but what if you decided you were going to radically change the way you socialized. What if i nstead of being loud, you chose to be quiet. Instead of talking about cars you chose to talk about computers. What if you chose to make everything funny, or lace a porn joke at every turn. One trick you could pull is trying to be pseudo-intellectual and make every phrase some kind of poetic stunt. You could change, like, ten features, and then, when you add in the multiplying synergies the ten would have on themselves, you would cease to be an X and begin a new life as a Z.

And THEN, THEN, if consistent enough, wouldn't your whole social map completely change all around you? Wouldn't the friends you formerly hung out with just drop off like a cold magnet? Wouldn't old non-friends all of a sudden start to go, "You know what Z, I used to not like you (X), but you (Z) are all right." Wouldn't your relationships with your boss, your family, your co-workers all be completely flipped upside down? Now you see the gravity of what I'm getting at.

The only way to answer these questions is, well to try it yourself. I've tried experimenting a little bit. Stop, I hear something, it sounds like, "What? You're changing yourself so you can get rid of your friends? What about us, us!" Okay okay, I'm not some superficial loser who's searching for a better crowd. I was searching for something and my observations above are just an effect that became apparent after what I had done.

So, in Memento-style reverse cinematic fashion, I begin, or rather, continue with what lead me to the above conclusion.

I frequently recalled a piece of advice I've heard over and over again, "Don't try to change others, change yourself." Or it's more along the lines of, "It's not what others give to you, but what you give to them." As annoying as those little tidbits are, there's some truth to them.

I decided to say, "Hey, what's up with my social behavior." It was more like the way George Constanza or Jerry Seinfeld say what's up: "What is up with sliced bread these days?" That way of thinking was somewhat counterproductive because it was funny and I could never take it seriously. It was more of a complaint rather than a search for an answer.

But, one day, I decided to be a bitch to myself, and deconstructed my social patterns. Conclusions (skip if you hate reading personal crap):
- Everytime somebody tells me something I disagree with, I find that I have to defend myself
- Most of my conversations with others have as a frequent topic of discusion, me
- A lot of the things I say tend to step on the toes of the other person
- If I say something and the other person disagrees, I get into verbal fights
- I always win arguments
- I always control the pace of conversation

I was so surprised by these revalations. I was even more surprised at how surprised I was. It just goes to show how little we know about ourselves even though we are right under our own noses.

Nontheless, I have since made an effort to reverse all of those old tendancies. I try not to step on other people's toes, I try to let other people control the conversational pace, and I now avoid defensivenes.

And, in trying this for just a little bit, things have been SO much better. My relationships with people are starting to get so much more pleasant. I'm finding that I'm starting to hang out with all new different kinds of people. And the predicted effect of losing old friends actually never really occured. Phew! Instead, it led me to the conclusion that my friends liked me for more static, content-based reasons, such as we shared the same hobbies or have a mutual assistance history. Plus, when I'm with old friends, my old habits kick in. And also, because of the history with my old friends, I expect the only effect on those relationships will be less thorniness. (but you never know, that's a risk, and yes, this is scary.).

So, if you're looking for some simple life-altering change, toss out your Tony Robbins care package and Stephen Covey books. Just change your behavior around people. Break apart your social pangea, and let the continental drift of your lifestyle open up new worlds.

PS. To all you... well, I was going to say something else (read below). But to all you naysayers, thank you for continuing to naysay. If it wasn't for the statistical recurrence of the naysaying I get, I would have nothing to analyze and work from.

To all of you rapid-fire, naysaying, counteractors who categorize all personality changes with being superficial, you will see that the socialization changes I undertook are all reasonable and don't really affect "who I am." Rather the changes help carry forward a long-awaited maturity in my social skills.

But, they do have a point. One can think too much, blah blah blah, yes a trillion disclaimers, Sure, but, nonetheless...

wink, wink.

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