Friday, May 24, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I think we all know and admire people who seem to be able to get along with anybody. And I’m the first one to acknowledge how noble such an attitude can be. Sometimes, I’m even envious of their ability to mesh so well with so many different kinds of people. I mean, just look at how many friends these people have, and how diverse those friendships are.

I, on the other hand, am not one of those people. I enjoy being around a lot of different people, and cherish my friends, especially those with whom I can have lively discussions, even disagreements. But there are some types – toxic, petty, deceitful, shallow, self-absorbed, or exploitive people - whom I am more likely to confront than to embrace, at least until I recognize the futility of the confrontation and grow weary of it.

When I encounter someone (with the notable exception of sales people and other business types) whose very persona seems to drastically shift, chameleon-like, to mesh with everyone they encounter, I find myself wondering who they really are, and what they stand for. Since a degree of certainty as to how someone will respond in a given circumstance is the core element of trust, and trust is the core element in any close relationship, I tend to keep such people at arm’s length, at least on an emotional level. I just don’t know who they are going to be in any given situation. I can care deeply about them, but I temper that with the realization that I may well be responding to their positive strokes, despite not knowing whether their support is heart-felt or just another of their many changing colors.

I know that my friends will have my back, no matter how grave the situation. They will also challenge me if they disagree with me, and get right up in my face if they think I’m being unfair or cruel or putting my or someone else’s well-being at risk (all of which, I have been known to do). And they know the same about me. When all is said and done, I know that my friends love me as deeply as I love them, and will alternately have my back or hand me my ass as necessary, both from an attitude of love. And these are the essential elements of a trust that can never exist in the company of a chameleon.

That's why I don't like to step lightly into a relationship, even one that I envision as a casual acquaintance. I'd much rather that both of us learn what the other is about early on than spend a significant amount of whatever time we might have left changing colors.

(Note: The symbol at the top is the Chinese symbol for trust)

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