How we see the world and our place in it defines who we are. Not only that, it influences how other people see us and who they think we are. It also determines how they relate to us and how we relate to them. Not everyone is the same. We all know that. So we should not expect that we relate to everyone in the same way.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Golden Rule. It’s been handed down through history so that we might be given the opportunity to live a better life. It impacts how we treat others and how they treat us. Our relationships are greatly influenced by this rule and even more so by how we think of ourselves in comparison to others.
That rule that defines our treatment of others simply says that we should treat others how we expect to be treated. If you don’t mind, I’d like to alter that a slight bit. I think it should be that we should treat others how they expect to be treated. But not knowing the other person, how can we accomplish that? Quite simply, you must begin a relationship before you can define that relationship. During the first few minutes of interacting with another person you must make a few decisions. The ultimate decision is: Can this relationship continue? In order to determine the answer to that question you must answer a few others first.
How do you see other people? How do you see yourself? How do you relate to other people? How do they relate to you? Do you have trouble relating to other people? All people, or just a select few? Do you care about the how’s and why’s of personal interaction? If you’re like the majority of those around you, the answer is probably no. You only care that you have relationships that you can depend on, however few or many they may be.
In my mind there are but three types of people in the world, and they are the greatest determining factor in establishing any sort of relationship with another. These three types mix like oil and vinegar. In some instances that mixture serves a purpose, and is quite good. In others it leaves a bad taste that does not retreat easily. In the first few minutes of meeting another person you’ve got to determine if the concoction being mixed will serve a purpose, or should it only be tolerated long enough to flush it down the drain?
Eleanor Roosevelt has been attributed with saying that “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” That’s pretty much the way I see it, too. However, I think that there is more than the mind involved. Body language, voice inflection, and so much more go into these definitions that I think they should be attributed to people and not just the minds of those people.
You see, I put people in three groups: those that talk about other people; those that discuss events; those that live for the exchange of ideas. These three classifications greatly influence how our relationships with others are built, and whether they will last through time. They’re the structure that allows us to build our internal model on how we perceive ourselves in the world, but most importantly how we think of others.
If you’re the perceptive type you will have seen and experienced what I’m about to explain. These three groups of people rarely mix for long. Oh sure, most people bounce around through all three definitions at one time or another, but long term relationships are built through interaction that both sides find satisfying. Allow me to explain.
When people talk about other people they need to be relating to someone with a similar approach to life. It allows them to feel comfortable and in control of the thoughts and words they exchange with that person. We call it gossip. The majority of our culture lives on it. Media thrives on it. And it allows a person to feel better about themselves by denigrating another.
Then there are those that thrive on discussing events; what they did, where they went, and who was there. It’s not so much about putting another person down, but about building themselves up by boasting about what they did, what they’re going to do, or what they might like to do. Empires have been built around this kind of person.
The last group is the smallest of the groups. These people find satisfaction in exchanging ideas with another. Whether they agree or disagree is not the point. It’s all about the discussion that goes beyond the individuals doing the discussing. There is a flow of information and ideas that transcend the boundaries of people and events. It is the foundation on which society has been built through the ages.
We have to understand that individuals are not entirely corralled into one group and confined there. For the most part, though, they seldom spend much time outside the comfort of their defined element. The people who talk about people will spend time discussing events, but rarely do they spend much time exchanging ideas. The people who enjoy discussing events will spend some time talking about people and, to a lesser extent, time exchanging ideas. The people that exchange ideas find it difficult to talk about people and uncomfortable discussing events. However they will relate with another long enough to know whether they will be able to build a lasting relationship with that individual.
Sometimes you might come across a person who is tough to define. They freely talk about others, and discuss events. Rarely, though, will they exchange ideas. The concept itself is uncomfortable. Then there are those who will discuss events and jump into talking about others. From time to time, they will venture into the area of exchanging ideas. Lastly, the people who thrive on exchanging ideas will slide into discussing events, but not stay long. However, they do not feel comfortable talking about people. They will avoid that like the plague.
So, where do you belong? Are you rooted in the group that spends time talking about others? Have you built your house in the neighborhood where discussing events is the driving force? Or, is the exchange of ideas where you have found a comfortable life? And, the answer is…?
Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.