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I Know What You Think of Me (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)
294 points by jejune06 on June 17, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments



I had a talk with a friend recently who is newly single, and it was clear to me that Facebook was making her crazy. She kept asking me questions about what people that were friends with her and her ex thought of her, or were saying behind her back, or were posting about her in a way that she couldn't see.

It was an uphill battle, but I finally convinced her of the truth: nobody really talked about her or her ex that much at all. And what was said was trite and banal, "Oh, I'm sad they broke up..."

This was a bit of revelation for her.

I think people that obsess over what is said about them behind their backs should take that to heart. The truth is you probably spend a lot less time in people's thoughts than you think you do.


I heard a good joke about this: when you're 20, you're obsessed with what others think about you. When you're 40, you don't give a damn what others think about you. When you're 60, you realize others were never thinking about you at all.


I hesitate to quote Ayn Rand, but it's fitting:

"Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us."

"But I don’t think of you."

-Ellsworth Toohey and Howard Roark, The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand


Michael Ginsberg: "I feel bad for you."

Don Draper: "I don't think about you at all."

(The irony of this line is that Draper, in fact, was obsessed with one-upping Ginsberg the whole episode.)


Things like this are what make Don Draper such a fantastic (and fantastically loathsome) character. He knows which buttons to push at which times. It is that quality that makes him both successful in his career and miserable in his life.


"Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person." -- Mark Twain


Ran into a coworker on the elevator. We worked together on the same floor in the same department for a few years then I changed departments and floors and now we hardly see each other. When she saw me on the elevator she said "I forgot you exist!"


Does that empower the "Move fast, break things" mentality since others were never really thinking about you (or other people for that matter) and just mostly themselves?


I'm kind of coming the other way. I don't think about what other people think of me much, but I do start to worry a bit when I notice a particular person constantly talks smack about other people to me- if you'll say that about person X, who knows what you say about me to person Y?

I wouldn't worry, except sometimes the people prone to talking a lot of smack are the sort to wildly exaggerate or fabricate.


Just for fun, I'd like to throw in my opposite experience. A few years ago I was quite active on FB, you know, posting random thoughts and music videos and stuff like that. The stuff I posted was indeed random, just things I liked and wanted to share based on mood and ...well randomness. But unbeknownst to be, an acquaintance of mine, who was at the time engaged in a horribly soapy love triangle, got it into her head that I was speaking in code about her - more specifically that I was totally in love with her and wanted to make her nicely constructed love triangle into a quad-shape.

It didn't help that I really had been unlucky in love for months at that time, and I once confided to said threesome girl my situation over a coffee. I did express to her quite clearly who my "problem" person was, but for some reason (and I learned that only much later from a meetup with her boyfriend) she actually thought I was again speaking about her, in code. I was not. However, she convinced a lot of people.

Only after noticing that quite a few friends and acquaintances were turning their backs on me lately, and a few people coming out and saying strange things like "hey, what's up with you and X, you gotta let her go, man" or even "dude, I heard what you did and it's not seriously not cool" I gradually learned that this person was waging an epic info war around and about me, who supposedly couldn't stop hitting on her. Upon learning this, I broke off contact immediately, but to my amazement the damage was still unfolding.

I simply could not believe the amount of gossip and straight-up fantasy people engaged in with me playing some kind of role in what had become a huge reality soap opera. Honestly, I never thought I was that interesting. But that didn't matter, because the made-up stuff just kept coming. It was as if I had a very active doppelgänger walking and talking around somewhere. It was absolutely stunning, and more than a bit horrifying. There are a lot of things I still can't wrap my head around. What was she getting out of this? And all the time, we had a "hey, let's grab a beer and cheer you up"-kind of relationship that I thought was pretty good. Why would anyone do this? And why was everyone willing to not only listen but also willing to add to this story?

Now, years later, my circle of friends has shrunken immensely. There are a lot of people who won't talk to me anymore, and I never got to find out why exactly. I only know that the moment I start asking questions, the whole affair seems to get reactivated. One friend told me only recently (unprompted) that there are so many conflicting stories about me in circulation, it's hard to keep track of them all. And none of them is good.

Why me? I'm neither rich, nor good-looking, nor in any imaginable way socially interesting. Seriously, it's stunningly stupid, and I can't for the life of me understand what powers this process. But it happened. A home-made conspiracy story. Sometimes, people really do talk behind your back - a lot.


Having seen a similar case up close myself, it is amazingly hard to wrap your head around some kinds of socially manipulative behavior. And I think that is why some people will fundamentally never come over your side - it's too hard to understand.

I've learned a few things from this (my) experience:

- Most people really are not interested in getting to the bottom of anything. Even if it is pretty serious and damaging. Sad but true. They can't be bothered to doubt their first instincts.

- Most people think they are such a rock-solid judge of character.

- If something doesn't add up, people may notice but then sweep it under the rug.

- Personality disorders are probably too hard a concept for people to consider. One thinks of a mental disorder as a person gibbering nonsense.


I've been through a similar, although not quite so extreme situation (post-breakups) a couple of times. One thing I have realised is that the people that stick with you and don't believe the bullsh*t are those that will be your friends for life.

There seems to be no shortage of people who will happily listen to one side of an argument and disseminate it. I've even met people for the first time, and when they found out my name say something along the lines of: "Oh, I've heard all about you."

It really is childish behaviour, anyone with a modicum of decency would confront you about it, and let you have your say. If they don't, they're not worth knowing (IMHO).


I have seen something like this before. Your case looks similar (it's impossible to know for sure, but I'll tell you what this looks like). She was in a self produced (shit)storm and you were chosen and used as the lightning rod. She actively engaged you in the equation without your knowledge. You were left in he dark, but she made sure all her and your friends got to know everything about you. She was "just the victim". She directed the talks (and the anger accompanying them) towards your person and got away with her own behavior. The fact that people still don't know what to believe makes me think she was quite successful. Of course this would not have worked if the target (you, a.k.a. the lightning rod) was -as you put it- "socially interesting". This strategy works especially well inside large companies. If you fucked up, you will most likely know it in advance and (if you have the power to) you select a person without a lot of good colleagues and blow up a small problem and make it huge. Get everyone to talk about his project and his mistakes and make sure your failure 'hides' behind the attention the other problem receives. In case your wondering, I've been a lightning rod as well. But I found out why in time...


You should point to this comment on your facebook feed. That'd be a fun comment thread.


Oh dear gods no, I'm trying to put this debacle behind me. It seems every time I try to clear something up about this, two more stories come to life. The only winning move, as they say, is not to play. I'm counting on the semi-anonymity of my HN account here ;)


I would go for it. Just @ a whole bunch of people. Ask what shit / lies this women said about you.


Nah, I tried all that and more years ago, it only made things worse. My interest actually contributed to keeping this thing alive. The longer I don't show any interest in the story, the more it atrophies. I'm just telling this as a cautionary tale, not soliciting any solutions - this chapter needs to die.


Unfortunately, you can't really caution against people who are projecting onto a situation for whatever personal benefit / coping mechanisms they have. It sounds like you didn't do anything wrong in this situation, and that's the best you can do. It's unfortunate too that people are uncomfortable to ask questions, and just assuming things they hear about someone are true, especially when it's in a bad light, ask to confirm or hear the 'other' side of the story - and gauge for themselves believability of both parties.


It's like you suffered the worst parts of an affair without any of the benefit.


This article was on the HN front page some time ago:

http://chronicle.com/article/I-Will-Ruin-Him/136693/

It sounds like your situation is similar, though perhaps less extreme.


Maybe, but I think this is fundamentally different. Threesome Girl did not have a real motive against me. In fact, we were still drinking buddies when I learned what she had been doing this whole time. There was no love interest, no need for revenge, nothing to gain from doing this. Yet, she did. And even more puzzling: a lot of people helped her, she always had a lot of social support. She was quite brilliant at that. Maybe - maybe getting that support and recognition was the motive, but she already kinda had that before.


There are people who just love to surround themselves with drama.


Exactly, I know some people in real-life, immediate family members, people I can't easily ignore even if I want to, who just loves to feed on drama.

I usually try to stay away from drama queens like my sanity depends on it, but when family members do it, not easy or (always right) to ignore them. I tried to explain, rationalize, reason with them and their drama ways; but it didn't help much.

I think drama loving people are kind of addicted to how it makes them feel.


I think your last sentence is probably the best rational explanation:

foment drama --> experience drama --> dopamine hit...


Seems like for some people you can never have enough, its like drinking salt water to quench ones thirst…


Borderline personality disorder strikes again.


Isn't it the same cause from a different perspective? She thought people (you) were talking about her.

We've a natural tendency to be egocentric because whenever we look around... we are at the centre. Happens at all scales e.g. geocentricism, anthropomorphism.


While you do not connect the dots, you have them all in your description. People were willing to believe her, because they wanted to be the fourth angle. By being in a triangle she was sending the message that a fourth angle is possible. By creating this story about you she was actually reinforcing that signal, making this possibility a discussion subject. Men are notoriously keen to have sex, especially on the age implied, and her behaviour was very promising. On the other hand, keep in mind that there is no randomness in thoughts or feelings you express. What you felt random could instead be serendipitous and she might even be right, but not in presenting that as something intentional.


Wow. That's a solid "no" on pretty much every single point you made.


serendipity: a stroke of luck, typically beneficial.


"You'll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do." -David Foster Wallace


This can be true, but Facebook is also used as a tool for people to measure how good they are doing in life to one another. Last weekend a friend of mine started talking about how ugly a specific kid was, then went on Facebook to look up a picture of the ugly ginger kid. Then when scrolling through 'the wall' he went on and on and gave his shallow judgement about people who all were doing worse than him in some way. Probably to reassure to himself that his kid is better on the scale he invented and that his life wasn't that bad after all. Sadly it's not the first conversation like this I overheard. It is one of the reasons I left Facebook, maybe private life should remain what it is, private.

His quote about society is absolutely beautiful.

"It would be like suddenly subtracting the strong nuclear force from the universe; the fabric of society would instantly evaporate, every marriage, friendship and business partnership dissolved. Civilization, which is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies, would collapse in an apocalypse of bitter recriminations and weeping, breakups and fistfights, divorces and bankruptcies, scandals and resignations, blood feuds, litigation, wholesale slaughter in the streets and lingering ill will."


This is true. However, in some cases, the short amount of time people think and talk about you is enough to cause permanent damage to your reputation/career/job/life.


> The truth is you probably spend a lot less time in people's thoughts than you think you do.

There is a clinical term for this phenomenon.


Egocentrism.


?


I don't know it... but I know it exists, LOL.



I was thinking narcissim...


This is a great article. Not good, great. It's a simple and objective look at a very difficult truth: It's so very easy (and, in the author's assessment -- which I agree with -- so very normal) to look at yourself as the exception, and to ignore or simply be ignorant of your own flaws, while eagerly pointing out those of others.

I keep learning more about myself (not the pleasant things, of course) because of this sort of introspection. I had absolutely none of it as a kid. I think few people do, but the more you manage -- and the later in life you manage it -- the harder it is to look back at yourself and not wince.

I'd say, and I think the author makes this point as well, at least in passing, one of the hardest things is forgiving yourself when you step back and realize how you've behaved (particularly after condemning others for the same actions). It's a lot easier to take someone else's actions and say "well, he/she didn't mean it" or "OK, that's just how people are" than to look at yourself, know that yes, you did mean it or intend to do it, and no, you don't really find it acceptable.


We judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.


I tend not to do this, which is why I find myself at age 35 with practically no grudges held and very few people who I cannot tolerate or even appreciate. It also makes it easier to recognize whether something is reconcilable in business, with employees, etc. Accidents happen, people make mistakes. I often find that unless I truly believe something was done out of malice, I have very little problem getting over it quickly.


I'm also 35 and feel exactly the same way. This often gets me in trouble with my wife when she exclaims "how could x have done y!" and I proceed to stick my foot in mouth by saying "maybe they were thinking z".


I've had the same exchange with my wife many times, and it always results in an argument. I guess there are some mistakes I make more than once.

Coincidentally, I am 35 and feel the same way :) Most of us are just working hard to get through the day and we're all going to screw up sometimes. I always try to offer understanding for others' mistakes, and hopefully I'll receive the same.


Well, if you've held your tongue at least once, then that's what I call progress. Being forgiving of others' mistakes is not something that will ever steer you wrong (except in the case of the NSA surveillance, but I digress), and that extends doubly to excusing your wife for her unforgiveness. And "shh!", don't tell her I said that, and mine neither.


Hmmmm, it sounds like she may want empathy and the ability to vent rather than any sort of solution or analysis. That's something that I've struggled with in the past but I think I'm getting better at.


Well, he is empathizing... just not with his wife. :-)


Women (especially significant others) tend to want you to agree with them, not with the person they're complaining about.

Don't give an objective analysis of the situation with an account of the other person's point of view, especially if your wife or girlfriend is in the midst of emotionally venting. It won't be appreciated.

Once she's cooled off and feels listened to and heard, then you can start to reintroduce logical analysis and 'what was the other party thinking and why did they do what they did'. But not right away.


Goofball hypothesizing about people as grouped objects is always fun to read. Wait, no. It's the other thing. Terrible to read.


In my experience, men do this just as much. People just don't question men's subjective assessment of things as much as they do women's.


Worse: 'Can you even imagine doing Y?' Yes dear, I have a healthy imagination.


I'm not 35 but I often try to defuse situations with my wife just this way : "Neither of [us/them] meant evil, so let's just get over it"


Hanlon's razor fits really well here. "Don't attribute to malice what you can to stupidity."


Indeed. Fundamental attribution error.


Perceived intentions and perceived actions often seem to fit the bill better then actual actions.


I especially loved the closing paragraph about the audio staircase revealing all gossip about you in order of ascending quality. That is terrible and fascinating idea.


Once you get to the bottom you are surround by the highest praise any has ever given you. Given that what percentage of the population would get stuck at the bottom?


The last half of the steps would just be my mother.


bah, I would only want the stairs if at the bottom the praise was realistic and accurate.


I'm slowly realizing that being judgemental and expressing those judgements to sympathetic interlocutors often feels good in the moment, but it's toxic in the long run.

This is because those judgements you pass on others are almost always externalizations of judgements you pass on yourself, and usually unfair ones to boot. Realizing you're a hypocrite is painful in the immediate term, but leads to pretty sustained gratification when you notice the gap between the person you could've passively become and the person you actively chose to evolve into.


Tim Kreider is an excellent writer and enjoyable to read. He is adept at weaving philosophy, humor, and personal anecdotes together into a great essay. If you like this, keep reading his work.


Agreed, I read one of his books on a trip to Chicago a week ago (We Learn Nothing), well worth the read.


Earlier this evening I received a text message from a someone I felt I was starting to have feelings for. Probably just infatuation, but possibly something more.

Another text soon followed; one that was very affectionate.

In the 3 minutes between replying and receiving the apologetic '... I'm sorry that wasn't meant for you...' reply, I experienced a full range of emotions from elation to embarrassment — disappointment to denial.

It's a funny old life. I found this article at the top of hacker news 5 minutes later. Definitely struck a chord.


Or it was and they are backtracking, although maybe not best to think too much about that.


or maybe be honest! why not.


    I’ve often thought that the single most devastating  
    cyberattack [would be] simply to simultaneously make 
    every e-mail and text ever sent universally public. 
    . . . . the fabric of society would instantly evaporate,
    every marriage, friendship and business partnership 
    dissolved.
I don't think it would be quite that bad. There are some people who lie to everyone, but there are also some people who are decent and honest. Some relationships would weather that kind of storm just fine.

In fact, maybe this is the optimist in me, or maybe I'm projecting, but I think most relationships would be just fine.


I would indeed be concerned if everyone around me really lived in a bed of lies that deep.

I don't have many friends, but I have no reason at all to suspect that I wouldn't still have those friends should such a thing occur.


It would be a wonderful political hack though. Just thinking of a zero day email dump hack makes me smile. The political fallout alone... just imagine. Wow, I felt like I was channeling John Lennon there for a moment.


As someone who doesn't engage in much personal gossip I would focus on the business relationships aspect. There is often a lot of nuance in these relationships and talking to them in one way and internally in another. That is not to say you are screwing them over but read out of context by the other party could damage the relationship.


I started a reddit thread once, "who here has absolutely no secrets with their SO?" While there were a number who couldnt imagine that kind of trust, a multitude said that living that was is incredibly freeing. I know I agree with that.


In this passage the author is using satire. Of course it wouldn't be that bad, but describing literally how it would be, wouldn't be that funny.


I don't think it would be satire, exactly. He'd have to be making fun of something specific that someone else said. Hyperbole, maybe?

At any rate, that would be encouraging if it were true. I must admit, I do not have a threshold of cynicism beyond which I assume a sentiment is a joke. There seem to be arbitrarily depressing people out there.


I think the important question no-one seems to be asking is: what's up with the goats? No seriously, for what reason does a NYT contributor/essayist/cartoonist need goats on demand?

Also: I'm calling it now, "Uber for Goats" is the next big startup idea.


In Seattle, you can rent goats to help take care of pesky invasive vegetation like blackberry bushes. Blackberries sound like a good idea until they take over, and they're very difficult to remove. Goats will eat them, though, so you can rent a small herd of goats and in a few days, the brambles will be eaten back to a level where they can be dug up by the roots.

I have no idea whether this was the case in this particular situation.


This is actually very common. You can make an nice chunk of change in the area between KY and SC renting out your goats to destroy kudzu.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIoRJG2yDoI

UK prof points out the obvious proposition, you keep a proper goat/kudzu ratio and it's MONEY TREE


I'm a programmer, not a NYT contributor, but even so my back-up plan for when I'll no longer be able to earn money from writing code is to start raising goats. It helps that my (living in the countryside) parents used to have a goat until not that long ago, and I could use their place for, well, starting the new endeavor.

Back to the article, I'm bummed that the photo of said goats wasn't presented to us.


That was my first thought too. And second, that if it's possible to rent a herd of goats I would like to do exactly that. I'll figure out a reason after the fact.


Having read this yesterday I was sure it was the reason:

In Utah, a 100-Mile Trek With a 4-Year-Old Boy http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/travel/in-utah-a-100-mi...

But instead it’s another NY Times author renting goats. There’s an epidemic!


My first thought was Aberforth.


When I was younger my mother used to tell me that the family that plays together stays together, and that's a pattern I've found repeated more generally in life: I tend to look at my friendship in terms of what people do with me. What activities we engage in together.

Interpretation is all well and good, but if you don't really do anything together what are they interpreting? It's a relationship built on dreams and imagination. And what do they really stand to lose in thinking poorly of you?

I'm actually constantly amazed by how strong friendships are, and how much people seem to respect each other. It seems like most people are only weakly friends, and that more by necessity than anything else. What interests do you really share with people? It's hard to think of having a really serious disagreement with someone from the office - you sympathise with them even if they'd be bores were you to meet them under other conditions.

From my perspective the world seems full of friendships and relationships that people invest heavily in emotionally and yet seem terrifyingly fragile. (Pretty amazing that they don't fall apart more regularly.) Maybe people would be happier and more secure if they paid more attention to the things they enjoy and the people they enjoy them with than being bothered about what just... other people... think of them - I don't know.

For myself, I know that I'd be very worried if it turned out that someone, even someone close to me, regularly spent a significant amount of their time just thinking about me. I have my own life and interests, and expect others to have theirs too - being elevated to some ideal of perfection in someone's world is a little creepy.


When I worked at a financial firm, we were regularly reminded not to write any emails that we wouldn't mind being printed on the front page of a newspaper. It's a tough habit to keep in mind, especially for non-work emails, but it's a good litmus test and it's helped me edit some emails before pressing 'send'.


Although it's clear what you meant, as you wrote the sentence, it has a somewhat more entertaining. You meant, "that we would mind being printed...". As written, it meshes nicely with my opinion of the financial sector. (/tongue-in-cheek)


> "I’ve often thought that the single most devastating cyberattack a diabolical and anarchic mind could design would not be on the military or financial sector but simply to simultaneously make every e-mail and text ever sent universally public... the fabric of society would instantly evaporate, every marriage, friendship and business partnership dissolved. Civilization ... is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies"

Dr. Doofenshmirtz agrees:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvELB_lHsXQ#t=4m19s


Hail to the whistleblowers, then?


Just wanted to remark

> the dreadful consequence of hitting "reply all" instead of "reply" or "forward."

This is why I never write things down that I wouldn't want to end up being read by the subject. Ever. Regardless I'll always go over the To-, CC- and BCC-list three times, but negative (unconstructive) things should be said only by mediums that you can expect to be entirely private. E-mail might be read by others when the colleague would leave the company or something, the sysadmins may snoop it, or he might just be standing by when the recipient receives the message. Or the colleague might make a mistake in sending it.

Not that I talk about others that much behind their backs, or at least I hope I don't unconsciously do it too much, but still.

Edit:

> a staircase you could descend deep underground, in which you heard recordings of all the things anyone had ever said about you, both good and bad. The catch was, you had to pass through all the worst things people had said before you could get to the highest compliments at the very bottom.

That sounds incredibly awesome. I'd force myself to descend all the way, and I think it'd be good. Make me realize how bad some things have been and what I can improve, but also make it a rewarding experience in the end that motivates to continue doing the good things and do more good things.


If you want to have some fun, take a dance class, and then have someone videotape you dancing.

It's usually pretty horrifying.


I went once with a friend to a club and he said that I really stand out of the crowd as a geek. I said: impossible, prove it. He took out his phone and recorded 30 seconds of me dancing. It took me watching just two seconds from this movie to realize he was right.

I don't frequent dance floors much since then. Still haven't got over it.


A variation is to try run as normally as you can. Be honest; no goofing about. Try to run as normally as anyone can. Then have someone watching you run (again, honestly) exactly as you just ran.

It's both hysterical and horrifying, because what you think of as normal is anything but. And it's true for everyone.


What's interesting is that it seems like the less you care what people think about you, the more people like you. You become more genuinely you. This makes you unique and interesting.

Besides, people can see through someone trying too hard.


I often struggle with the most basic question of them all: Who am I?

To me, how I live my life is the only way to answer that attempt at self-reflection. Yet, we are not what we do. That's the dodge that plagues me.


Each of us is two very different people - the one we know, and the one others know.

I've found that self-reflection only takes me so far because of how charitable we tend to be to ourselves. I'm trying to get to know the me that others know - the me composed of my actions and their perceived motives and outcomes. It's deeply discomforting how different that me is from the one I know.

Try this - record a few of your phone conversations (with the other persons permission) over a week and listen to them. I found that the person on the phone is pretty far from who I thought I am.


I'd actually suggest Montaigne, if you haven't touched him already; this is a good intro:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Live-Montaigne-Question-Attempts/d...


I worked at a high end law firm for a couple of years and there was a paralegal that was routinely abused by her boss. She got fed up after seeing an email thread and took it to the managing partner. The managing partner was a really great guy, and his solution was to let her print all of the offending attorney relevant email threads and distribute them to the entire office. It was righteous. It surprised the attorney, as she had her emails published and she was fired on the same day.


The sensation that the author describes -- that uncomfortable feeling of realizing that you're being viewed as just as another person, not always in a positively light -- is similar to what I feel when I think about unlawful surveillance, including programs like PRISM.


The author of this article, Tim Kreider, may be better known by some of us Internet folk as purveyor of the fine web-comic "The Pain": http://thepaincomics.com/


I like to think I became pretty adept and being unconcerned about other's opinions and honest yet selective about voicing my own relatively early on.

Though I was quite happy internally and I do believe it was a net win socially, living that way isn't without its own problems.

As a result, I've had to learn to feign back the other way to some degree.


Ahh - I love Tim Kreider. Find him hilarious, poignant, extremely witty, and intelligent. Mentioned elsewhere, but if it helps drive more people to his site, here it is: http://thepaincomics.com/


Never heard of him,

"The context is that I had rented a herd of goats for reasons that aren’t relevant here and had sent out a mass e-mail with photographs of the goats attached to illustrate that a) I had goats, and b) it was good."

but he seems like an awesome guy :D

Thanks for the link.


I am painfully aware of how much energy I expend trying to prop myself up above others. Whether I am delicately explaining how I would have done it differently or just fidgeting with my clothes to make myself look better in that place's light, I end up feeling like I'm acting fake. Maybe I am.

Regardless, I think there's little we can do about it. Anytime I overcome the urge to make myself look better to the strangers around me, it is done through no small amount of conscious effort. It is so much easier to just give in to my genetic encoding and try to appear more fit than to make my existence easier.


Or in my case, I spend a lot of time in denial about how much I intend not do... do exactly what you're describing, but finding out after the fact (re-playing conversations with others, or listening to complaints from my family) that I, unbeknownst to my conscious mind, do exactly that.


If you work at a company that enforces 360 peer reviews you'll get to find out what everyone thinks of you whether you want to or not.


This is basically what happened in the diplomacy world when the State Department cables were leaked.


This brings to mind why people who are socially inept tend to fall behind further in interpersonal skill, unless they make concerted efforts to improve themselves. When you start developing the ability to read people, it's painful because you realize that most people passively dislike you.

It gets a little better when you realize that most of the low-level passive dislike is impersonal. Passive dislike of others (perceived as intruders, a "crowd", etc.) is the norm, and taking offense to human traits that evolved in times of scarcity and fear makes no sense. When you're socially inept and perceive others as unfairly exaggerating your faults, it feels like persecution. Reality is that people just exaggerate everyone's faults because it's how humans are.

Learning what people really are is painful and demoralizing if you're socially average or above, but it's devastating for people who are socially inept.


> This brings to mind why people who are socially inept tend to fall behind further in interpersonal skill, unless they make concerted efforts to improve themselves. When you start developing the ability to read people, it's painful because you realize that most people passively dislike you.

Really? I never got that impression.


Passively dislike you, or just don't have any particular interest in you whatsoever? (Or is that exactly what you mean by "passive dislike"?)


Mostly "no particular interest", but passive dislike comes from an (understandable) fear of congestion.

All else being equal, you'd rather fewer people be where you are than many. You'd rather ride a half-empty plane than a full one. You'd rather your favorite restaurant be quiet and spacious than crowded and loud. Of course, everyone has specific people they'd prefer to be around... but we're mostly irritated by crowds and be around people we didn't select. That's just how we are. We're animals, and every animal exhibits heightened cognitive load when animals of the same species (conspecific individuals) are in range.

This is not worth getting angry about. It's just how the world seems to work. Even if the world isn't congested, it almost always feels that way... and to most people, you and I are part of the problem. When you drive, you're part of "traffic".



I wonder if the author ever emails one of the two friends about the other. It's unfair if only one side of the private emails gets opened, but the other stays hidden. Also, given that presumably you're still friends after this incident, who cares? A single email is a ridiculously small facet of a person to base an opinion off of.

And if you weren't friends but just colleagues, who cares? You've just learned an important bit of information: your colleagues don't approve of your expenditures. This will help you plan your future. Take it and learn. More information is hardly ever bad.


I'm pretty sure you didn't actually read most of this article.




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