When somebody is being over-the-top nice after they’ve fucked something up.
Do you know what I really like?
When someone offers up a sincere apology and then gets on with the day.
Own it. Regret it. Forget it.
Take five minutes, have a real conversation, and then go back to regular life.
If I don’t acknowledge I can come across like an unsympathetic magician. Trying to trick you into paying attention to my magic rabbit and hat. All the while my other hand is holding a bloody knife. I’m not fooling anyone.
And then if I’m dancing around like an out-of-the-ordinary, out-of-control ballerina with an obviously fabricated sugary song and dance, it only makes whatever transgression worse. It prolongs the distress.
Elaine said to me seven years ago, “…and don’t grovel.”
I get “wanting to make it better” with flowers from up my sleeve and I’m sure I’ve tried to pull rosy ruses myself. But keep it to a minimum. Otherwise it’s a black reminder. The fuck up lingers like a red rubber band, stretching the hurt out for way longer than it needs to.
Humility. Brevity. Authenticity. I won’t go wrong with these.
Years ago I used to work with this client, aliased Jack, who would continually get on my nerves. He wasn’t a bad guy but every now and then he would email me a question, looking for an answer to something we’d been over and over again.
I would read his email and think, “Why the fuck are you asking me this? We’ve already talked about it. More than once. I got better shit to do than repeat myself. For the third time.”
I saw the email conversations as nothing but ridiculous.
No, the world’s not gonna blow up if you click that button. If it could blow up, my annoying little friend, you wouldn’t be able to see the button, let alone click the fucking button.
Obviously customer service doesn’t run in my blood. I like talking with my friends and family but I’m not a big fan of talking to people when I “have to.” By and large there’s little interest in me to hand out warm fuzzies to the clients. I like to write code at work, not give hugs.
So back to Jack.
I was thinking about him this morning because thoughts come and go, as they do. He was a nervous, jittery guy. Anxious pretty much every time I spoke with him. He would often get five steps ahead of me when we were reviewing his projects and I’d be like, “dude, slow down.” I would actually call him “dude” which is my polite way of saying “you moron.”
But time equals clarity and so I tend to think with those calls and emails what he was after was reassurance. He was looking to be comforted in someway if you will. Don’t make that weird because it’s not. But maybe he was homosexual, I don’t know.
I doubt if him wanting a professional “hug” was a front-burner thought. It’s not unusual for people to create little messes in their mind, get themselves all worked up and bent out of shape, and then lean on somebody they trust. Someone who’ll tell them it’s okay, that everything’s fine. Someone who’ll offer solutions to their problems.
And then life can be right for a moment.
I don’t know for sure that’s what was up with Jack but it’s what I’m inclined to think.
Being in touch with what other people are feeling or needing is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m a man, not an empath. I have to consciously pay attention to those around me or else I’ll be content in my own imaginary land of Hobbitses and/or Synthetics.
That will sometimes get me in trouble, too.
Here’s a quote by David F. Swink:
Having poor empathy skills can lead to serious consequences. It can lead to conflict born of misunderstanding. Without it we can feel lonely within a relationship. Lack of empathy can cause companies to make catastrophic blunders that alienate their customers or employees and it can even incite violence.
Hopefully I’ve never incited violence. I do have the occasion thought of hitting someone on the head with a hammer though.
Thinking about Jack in the here and now it’s easier to see where his antics were coming from, hindsight being 20/20 and all that. There’s nothing I can do about that relationship now but I can maybe carry a little extra empathy into my present day interactions with Jill, aliased of course.
Last paragraph: sometimes we make amends to someone by being a little bit nicer to the next guy.
He stopped calling me once he figured out I always sent him to voicemail. ↑
I was sitting at a stoplight and a minivan pulled up in the lane next to me.
The wife appeared to be driving and, who I assume to be the husband, was slumped over in the passenger seat. Quite possibly hungover. Renounced pathetic in his silence and downward, saddened gaze.
The engrossing part of this travel tale was that she was scolding him with both hands and all that. Arms flailing. Eyes furious. Teeth gnashing. Murderously chewing his ass upside and down there behind their minivan windows.
This would be a day I would not ever forget if I were him. The guy looked defeated as he sat there frumpily slumped. Acceptive of whatever verbal beating his wife was handing down.
I don’t know if he fucked the dog last night or what, but guys, this dude was in trouble. 😯
adj. having an excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance
Everybody knows the definition but I don’t think one really knows until experiencing daily life. With one. Up close. For years.
They can be tricky because we want them to like us. We crave their approval yet they seldom offer any. And then if they hug us we can breathe again. They’re malicious and berating yet adorable and charming.
Walking in a sea of flowers with landmines buried underneath. Be even more wary when the vain are parading around town in a love bus.
What I mean by this is something along the lines of:
Last time I came home you didn’t look up from the TV so the next time you walk in I’m not going to stop watching it either.
Scorekeeping is a way for me to exert control in a situation where I feel like I have none. When I feel helpless, putting marks on the blackboard helps me claim some power.
I will punish you when you hurt me, give you the silent treatment when you don’t pay attention to me. Won’t fold your laundry because you were more interested in your phone at dinner than talking to me.
It’ll be when you notice that the someone who you’ve spent years of your life with is now gone. You’ve already grieved in the months since they left and now it’s been a few years and then you realize again, for no apparent reason, that they no longer live in the home you once shared.
And you’ll think about all those moments you let slip away when you could’ve held her hand but instead chose to be grumpy because he didn’t do the laundry that one time.
Not long ago I was reading an article wherein the author said that people aren’t going to care about what you’re doing. Like if I plant a wonderful garden people aren’t going to come from miles around to see it. They won’t throw flowers and shower me with attention.
Unless I’m a celebrity gardener, nobody will care.
How the author believed it did work was like this: if I care about you and your garden then you in turn will care about me and my garden. Of course there’s no black and white rule that you can apply to all people or all situations but I do think there’s a lot to be said for me caring about you and you reciprocating.
All the people that subscribe to my magazine, I’ve established relationships with them. Showed a true interest in them as human beings. And not because I want them to subscribe but because I legitimately care about them and their lives. Because people can smell a rat.
I don’t want to go off on a ratty tangent but I do know that my life is much bigger, much more meaningful when I get to experience another person’s sorrow and happiness. And as a bonus I get to have people care about me and my pursuits. Humans are special. Valuable creatures. If I want to be treated as such then I better do my part.
It’s not always easy to stop and listen to what people are saying when we have plates in the air spinning but what I’ve found is that being there for another’s triumphants becomes so much more fulfilling than experiencing mine own.
Okay, I’d like to think myself all that and a bag of chips but I’m not that spiritual. I don’t fully engage all the time with everyone else’s wins.
However, when I do life is pretty good. Another’s joy will lift up my soul and foster my own creativity. My struggles aren’t that impossible and my plates don’t spin nearly as fast.