Balance (repost)

This was originally posted 1/26/2010

This afternoon I had a brief conversation with a friend about what's been going on with her since we last spoke. (This is the same friend I talked about in this post) She mentioned she was spending a lot of time working and getting ready to apply to grad school. One of her major complaints after moving to NYC was that she felt like people just weren't nice. She's given me many examples of situations where she stepped up to be nice, but was knocked back down.

In this conversation, she mentioned that she felt herself being hardened by the city and wondered if I had any thoughts on maintaining a balance between being kind and protecting yourself from being taken advantaged of.

I told her that I try to remember what my mother tells me all the time: "you show people how to treat you..."

When she says it, she means that everytime I let someone get over on me, I'm telling them that's ok. She also means that I should stand up for myself and show that I know what's going on and I'm not going to be played for a fool.

However, I typically take that quote and flip it a little. I'm an actions person, above all else. I don't care what you tell me, I will always believe your actions if there's a discrepancy. I once told J, "you say you love me, but there's no way you could treat me the way you do and love me. You may want to love me, you may think you love me, but your actions say otherwise..." So, when I engage with a person, I engage with them in a way that I'd want to be engaged with. That is, I follow the golden rule and treat them as I'd like to be treated.

When I say I'm going to call, I do.

When I say I'm going to be somewhere, I am.

When we talk to each other, I pay attention to what they say, I respond to their questions, I show interest.

I do these things (and more) because these are things I think a)you do for people you care about and b)because I expect the same in return.

When it becomes obvious that the other person has his own agenda, I take that under advisement and all that effort goes out of the window. Often that will open up an opportunity for dialogue "Hey, man, you usually call when you say you will, but lately that hasn't been happening.." is a great opportunity to counter with "yeah, because you don't give me the same courtesy -- so I guess it doesn't matter much..." If it doesn't, though, that's ok because I didn't cease the activity to illicit a response, I stopped because I've shown you how I expect to be treated and I'm assuming so have you -- one good turn deserves another.

Sometimes the relationship deteriorates from there. Once I quit pulling all the weight to watch it sink or swim, sometimes it sinks. In those cases it sucks but there are a lot of other people in my life who are pulling their weight and they deserve my attention more.

I'll admit, there's a certain passive aggressive air to this. I'm not one to feel a whole lot of talking needs to be done when the actions are telling me everything I need to know. The friend I discussed here recently told me she misses hearing my voice. I told her she can call anytime. That was 4 days ago and she still hasn't heard my voice -- her choice and her actions tell me that she doesn't actually miss hearing my voice.

This morning on twitter I said, "The next person to tell me they miss talking to me is gonna get it... right in the kisser!" A friend asked me what was behind all the hostility. As I told her, it's about actions. If you miss talking to me, CALL ME! I'm one of the easiest people in the world to find, if you want to. Between facebook, e-mail, gchat, twitter and the old-fashioned phone, there's no excuse not to simply drop a line to say "hi." You don't have to tell me you miss talking to me -- you can just talk to me.

As I told my friend, though, I'm not always really good at this. Sometimes I get caught up in wanting a relationship to work out so I ignore what I see. I want people to like knowing me, to like interacting with me and when they don't, my kneejerk reaction is to "fix it" by assuming it's something I'm doing (or not doing). There's a lot of trial and error in this, but I'm working it out.

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