Archives for posts with tag: The Big 5

Is it worthwhile to “be nice”? Is it useful to “be approachable”? Is it possible to be kind and agreeable and still authentically the person I am “at heart”? Short answer; yes. I mean, that’s my opinion, and I’ve had good results making the effort to pivot from chronic sarcasm, day-to-day cynicism, and bitterness-as-humor, to something… “nicer”. That’s really it. The entire point. You can go have coffee or move on with your day. The rest is just more words. πŸ˜‰

The tl;dr is that I see value in being pleasant in interactions with others. You may feel differently, or even be inclined to argue the point (but I won’t be taking the bait – I said what I said).

It can be damned difficult to maintain a faΓ§ade of pleasantness or to force a smile, and a “customer service approach” doesn’t feel “authentic”, generally. The thing is, though, when I was a bit less kind, less pleasant, less approachable… I was also less fun to be around, less likely to be supportive, and more inclined toward being argumentative. Making a change in favor of being more “agreeable”, generally, and more pleasant has not stopped anyone else from continuing to be whoever they choose to be (and thus has not prevent some argumentative interactions with folks inclined to that behavior, though I do endeavor to avoid such interactions – and relationships). Sometimes it is difficult to be nice, kind, compassionate, understanding, and present. Sometimes it is effortless. If I am in pain it can be especially challenging to be my “best self”. Still worth the effort most of the time.

…And it is possible to learn to be nicer, kinder, more agreeable, more pleasant… it just takes a fuck-ton of practice…

My Traveling Partner pops in for a moment and reads the first sentence over my shoulder. “It’s better to be kind than to be right,” he says, “but you can be both.” He looks thoughtful and adds “…be kind first” as he moves on to other things.

Some people are unpleasant, disagreeable, or unkind. That’s not about me, and I don’t have to “drink the poison“, or “take the bait” – although I may need to exert an effort to walk away from bullshit now and then. Look, let’s just take “helping them change” or “fixing their issue” off the table right now – I know it’s tempting, but it’s not actually a thing (even within our relationships). They have to do their own verbs to become the person they most want to be, and maybe they think they’re just fine as they are? If who they are is giving you grief, that’s a mismatch in social values, not a troubleshooting scenario for you (or me) to fix – even if we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who “isn’t easy to be around”.

Similarly… maybe it’s you? Maybe you’re the asshole? (I know it has been me, more than once…) Are you really the person you most want to be? Do you actually want a reputation for being short-tempered, unkind, disagreeable, contrary, cranky, unapproachable, arrogant, terse, argumentative, or unpleasant? Does any of that actually sound good? (I bet it doesn’t.) We usually get around such things in our definitions of self by pointing our finger at someone else (or circumstances) and saying “they made me…”. (Provocation doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Just an fyi on that.) Making excuses for our short-comings doesn’t make our short-comings more acceptable – they just slow our progress toward being a better human being, as an individual, based on those things we can choose to do (or change) to be the best version of ourselves we can imagine from the perspective we’ve got. Another common “out” we reach for too often is that we were not “understood”. Were we not? Truly? Or are we just hoping to be off the hook for a moment of nastiness we really ought to sincerely regret, and move on from committed to doing better? The worst of the excuses is using straight up justification of our worst behavior, as in “I am taking this approach because it is necessary [to get a desired outcome].” (Is it, though? Really? Or are you just being an asshole because that’s less work for you, personally? Couldn’t you do better?)

Anyway. I am sipping my coffee and thinking about how to feel cranky without “being” cranky, and how to express frustration or anger without becoming the embodiment of my worst self, or taking a frustrated or angry tone with someone I love. Seems likely it can be done… I probably won’t solve that over a single cup of coffee but it sure seems worth considering. πŸ™‚ It’s along the same line of thinking as “how do I survive trauma without becoming a monster?”, but that’s a very large puzzle and pretty much 100% of all of the words in this blog touch that one in some way, you know? Breaking down the big challenges into smaller challenges, and finding the small practical details that can become the loose threads that unravel this tangled mess is kind of the point of sitting here at this keyboard. πŸ˜€

It’s a whole new year opening up ahead of me. How will I use this mortal time to live my best life, and to be my best self? Where will this journey take me?

I’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. πŸ™‚

I’m down to the end of this cup of office coffee, here in the icy chill of the co-work space. (Seriously? It’s summer, it’s okay if the office is 75 degrees, instead of 67! It’d still feel cool. LOL) There’s so much angry shit in the news, so much violence, and generally bad behavior. It’s hard to fathom how so many people can take the actions they do, say the things they do, treat each other the way they do. Why is there so little practical effort to “make the world a better place” – most particularly by the people making it bad to begin with?!

We could all do better, I’m sure. This is not an “us vs them” thing; we each have opportunities to do better, with regard to something. This isn’t about “left vs right”, either – there are some shady “bad actors” on the left and on the right. There is a seemingly endless uncountable number of misogynist racist xenophobic ass clowns just… every-damned-where trying to rationalize or excuse their bullshit (or force it on the rest of us). It’s pretty horrible, and I’m frustrated and saddened by it.

I’ve heard that if I’m inclined to complain, I ought to come with a solution to propose. I’ve got you. No problem. Here it is; practice Wheaton’s Law. Every day. All the time. Reliably. Everyone. Simply that. If everyone really did embrace Wheaton’s Law to guide their day-to-day interactions, I suggest that that world would be a far better place than it is right now. Just saying. Do better.

…Yes, you, too. Yes, me too. Just do better. Be a better human being today than you were yesterday. One interaction at a time. Practice. Sure, your results will vary (I know mine do). It’s still better than just not doing a damned thing about human misery. Do something. Some small thing.

Practice Wheaton’s Law.

Begin again.

I write the word. You read the word. “Tantrums.” We probably both think of children, first. Adults having tantrums are… embarrassingly human. I’ll bet you’ve done it. “Thrown a fit.” Maybe, “lost your shit”? Did you “blow up” over something small? Tired? Not feeling well? Headache? Suddenly you found yourself in the middle of an emotional firestorm, losing both self-control and resilience? I don’t know anyone who can be entirely honest and say they’ve never, ever, lost their composure inappropriately over some moment or another. It’s unpleasant to experience. It’s unpleasant to witness. It’s unpleasant to be around. Each and every one of us who has found ourselves succumbing to the worst of who we are in some moment, who has blasted some innocent bystander, colleague, – or worst – someone we care about deeply over our bullshit, knew right then and there that we were fucking wrong as hell. We probably didn’t say as much. Maybe we never even apologized. Maybe we think because the “facts were on our side” it excuses our shitty behavior? Is it you, this time? Was it them? Do you think you were “right”? Do you think they were? (Do you actually think that matters more than the unpleasant moment you’ve created?)

“Am I the asshole?” Good question to ask oneself in a moment of tension or conflict. Just saying.

I’ve been there, for sure. It’s definitely not “always me”, though; I am but one human among many. Even narrowing the view to just the company I work for. Just my community. Just my family. Just my partnership. Even with my “issues” – it’s not always me. Just saying. Any one of us can, and likely will, succumb to emotional weather, however pleasant the emotional climate may be. Storms come and go.

I sat down to write, over the weekend, but my thoughts had not yet become a thing I could express in words. It was fatiguing weekend of relaxing effort. lol My body was tired. My mind was seeking a moment of quiet to really process things. Maybe I get that moment when I seek it, maybe I don’t. It sometimes ends up being the sort of thing that keeps me restless and wakeful into the wee hours, quiet, and reflecting, filtering, sifting, sorting, all the thoughts and questions, and moments. In the meantime, I’m struggle to put my thoughts into some coherent share-worthy whole. Interruptions. Distractions. Endless seeming “high priority” distractions, and demands on my time and attention.

My Traveling Partner is having his own experience.

Our A/C seemed to be malfunctioning. I mean… it demonstrably was “malfunctioning”, keeping in mind the intention, and settings, should have it cooling the house, and it is doing quite the opposite. Time spent troubleshooting (and snarling at each other), eventually pays off; blown fuse replaced. I struggle to “keep up” with his shifting emotional weather, some days. That was one of those. I imagine my own notion of resilience as a deep, calm, still pool. I perceive his (substantial) resilience more as a wave pool; big swings that reliably settle into calm fairly quickly. We’re each having our own experience. It’s not “personal” – not even truly “adversarial” in any clear way. Just quite different from each other, and sometimes not complementary. We are so similar…and so different. I don’t think I’d change that… I’d just like to be a bit better at it than I am… preferably without having to gain those skills through experience. lol

I continued to write, but ultimately set it aside over distractions. The pain I was in had increased, even though our stressful moment was quite brief, and it colored my thinking. I finally gave up on it. Today it’s days later, and reaching for words in a different moment of stress and conflict, and I find this, half-finished, waiting for me. A reminder that emotional weather comes and goes. That we are each having our own experience. Each seeking to understand the world through the lens and filter of our own experience – and often completely limited to that context, because it is all we truly know. Empathy is hard sometimes. Compassion requires more verbs. Kindness, too. Finding my way to a fully accepting and loving place is hard right now. I’m angry.

I remind myself that my Traveling Partner and I both have only good intentions. That we both love each other. That we are each doing our best with shared goals in mind. That we are individuals seeking to thrive – and help each other to do so – on a shared journey. It’s hard to be the best version of myself when I am feeling angry, or misunderstood, or unappreciated. I know that’s true for him, too. I look at my calendar – another meeting. I take a breath, and begin again.

I’ve got a headache. The usual. “Nothing to see here.” I’m also feeling aggravated, frustrated, and annoyed with commonplace (fairly ordinary) communication challenges with my partner. Right now, I don’t really know what to do with that, besides my very best to maintain a cool head, a calm demeanor, and a better than average attempt at “holding my tongue”. Allowing things to escalate, over something so incredibly petty, would not be a good demonstration of adult communication. So… okay. Working on that.

It’s not the communication itself, in these circumstances, that is petty – it’s very much the small shit that so easily gets out of hand, becoming a source of conflict. Manufactured conflict. Unnecessary conflict. Pointless conflict. It’s the sort of thing human primates are super good at. (Creating conflict, I mean.) I snarl quietly inside myself. I’m so completely fed the fuck up with human beings creating drama. I’m fed up with us/them bullshit arguments that are little more than territorial pissing matches, and ridiculous vortices of righteous anger and outrage used to justify terrible behavior. Unclear expectations. Untested assumptions. It’s not even about my partner, or our relationship in any direct specific way. It’s… all of us. People. “Society.”

It reaches me unavoidably through the limited media I consume, and even in the behavior of passing strangers on city streets, in unexpectedly crowded shops (“There’s still a pandemic going on, ya fuckwits.”)(I’m shopping, too.), and in parking lots. Most people think they’re right – about something. Mostly those same people are not actually “right” about the things they are so invested in being right about. They just have a fucking opinion. I’m no different. We’re each having our own experience – but we’re all human beings. We’re not very good at being our best selves. We treat each other – even our loved ones – pretty fucking badly, rather often. It’s incredibly shitty and I’m feeling cross just actually being a fucking human being, at all. We kind of suck, as creatures, rather a lot. We mostly don’t even make a fucking effort to be better today than we were tomorrow. I’m saddened by that.

A thoughtless harsh word, a moment of frustration or anger, of disappointment, or hurt feelings, and my whole experience feels colored by that moment. How is it that moments of intense joy don’t have similar impact, across an entire day or experience, in the same way? That seems unfair to me, sitting here right now. I feel chilly. The room is not cold; it’s me. I’m fighting back frustrated angry bullshit tears I don’t choose to indulge. My headache worsens with the effort of pure will at the end of a long day and week. I’m alone in this room, in this moment, because this is not about him. He’s got his feelings and experience, too; those are his. This? This right here is about me. Me, seeking to be and do my best, struggling with some things that are definitely not me at my best. Me, working to get over my bullshit and baggage, and manage my chaos and damage. Oh, I’m not being an ass to myself, and there is no cruelty here. I’m not being down on myself, but this is hard emotional labor, right here, and I need focus and concentration, and some quiet space to do it.

I practice being better than this petty moment of provocation. It’s just not very easy, as practices go. I love my partner. He’s earned my respect, and has my enduring affection. He’s my best friend. My lover. My Traveling Partner. My spouse. I’m still just fucking maddened by some of our small challenges, now and then. I’m sure he feels similarly. It can’t be easy living with me. I’ve… “got issues”. (Who doesn’t?)

I take a breath. Exhale. Relax. Let it go. Let all of it go. Just… breathe. I listen to the computer fan spin up, slow down, cycling as I type. I listen to the steady ring, chime, shimmer, and ping of my tinnitus, in the background, louder than any sounds from the other room. This too has started to become an impediment to good communication; I watch people closely when they talk to me to avoid missing an important detail. I often mishear things when I don’t see them spoken, like when I am walking away. It’s frustrating. Now and then it gives the impression I’m “not paying attention”.

I’d planned – considered? – writing something quite different, but the idea (which I really liked) was washed away by my irritation. Another bit of aggravation, this evening. I take another breath. I blow it out fiercely, childishly, crossly. I take another breath, and insist on exhaling it gently, without hostility or resentment.

My partner sticks his head in the door. He smiles and there’s so much love there. We’re in this together. “Still cranky?” he asks. Yeah, yeah I am – but it isn’t so bad. I feel very loved, and that matters more. Even when my head aches. Even when I’m cross.

…I guess I’ll just begin again. πŸ˜‰