Nov 29, 2007

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

When someone does something that you don't quite agree with, the options you have remind me of the old MS-DOS disk-read error message:

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Do you walk off, try to make them understand or look the other way?

Lets consider each option:
  1. Abort
    Breaking up on encountering simple disagreements might produce out of you a grumpy old man yelling "Get off my lawn!" or a bitchy hag with nine cats who the children are terrified of. This may not be in the interest of your long term happiness. Some times you may not even have an option of breaking up, like if you are the mother of a difficult teen.

  2. Retry
    What starts off as a constructive criticism can quickly escalate to a bitter fight and irreversible damage. This is more likely if you or the recipient of your criticism lacks the tact to contain disagreements and has the tendency to let things snowball. At the very least, it will ruin your day. You may think that your are only helping the person by trying to expand their perspective, but even if it works, it is usually a thankless job. There are few things as emotionally draining as a thankless job.

  3. Ignore
    Ignore is what you do when you are inert. This could be your personality trait or this could have been forced upon you. One example of forced inertia is a bad marriage that has to continue for the sake of kids. A good guy with a bitchy wife and three young kids loads up on hamburgers and prays for a heart attack.
Now I think I understand why there are many single introverts, why some couples that seem to fight a lot are actually happy and why parents are likely to be unhappy. Road trips with friends are more enjoyable than with family because we don't try to manage friends and they don't try to manage us either.

I think this strategy might work:
  • Don't try to improve others (exceptions: kid / pet)
  • Develop higher tolerance.
  • Mention your point in a friendly manner - just once.
  • Take a lot of time to commit.
  • Walk off if hopeless.
To summarize: First ignore, then retry a little bit, then abort.

And remember, preservation of sanity trumps pursuit of happiness.

I had disagreements with multiple people today, and I responded with 'Retry' each time, which only led to unpleasant results. Most people can deal with this instinctively, but I had to think it through. Writing helps me think without going in circles.

What do you think?

Nov 27, 2007

Cheer Up!!!

We don't yell "Quit drowning!" when we see a guy flailing in the dark waters. Then why do we yell "Cheer up!" when we see someone sad?

We can carry this analogy further: You don't think before diving in your Armani suit, head long into shark bay, to save your dear friend. But if the dude is bigger than you, or even if he is not, he most likely will take you down with him in his death grip. This is why you knock him out if he starts over-powering you. Only then do you proceed to drag him ashore. I present this as an argument to get drunk with your sad friends. Otherwise, they take you down with them.

My real point is: There are many ways to help your friend who is sad - depending on you, your friend, the weather and your sexual-orientation. But repeating "Cheer Up!" is not one of them. And getting angry is worse - like giving death punishment for attempted suicide.

Everyone, including yours truly, is guilty of this. Common sense is not that common, it seems :-)

Playing, watching a funny movie, going out or any such thing that indirectly takes their mind off their sadness helps, I guess.