3 Reasons You Should Care What People Think About You — Or an argument for the return of Conscientiousness

If I had a nickel for every stupid, asinine, or just plain misguided thing that I have done, said, or perpetrated upon an unsuspecting world — I would at least be able to pay for my kids’ college tuition, if not be financially independent. And why do I say this? Well, first of all, I have to establish my credentials as an expert in stupid. Unfortunately, I can replay events from 20+ years ago that still make me cringe and question my self-awareness (but I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday… Crazy world). So, I think I can qualify as a semi-professional expert on people-doing-dumb-stuff.

Second, it isn’t hard to find crazy behavior in the news and seeing some defense along the lines of “That’s just who they are” or some such. And then it is easy to feel superior and good about oneself. And then, I was like crap! I say that about myself all the time, if I’m honest — “You know, I gotta true to myself”. Barf. Seriously, self?!

So, I started merrily writing my 3 points of self-righteousness in blog-form, and then… they became points of self-reflection. Reflection about how I should care more about what people think. So, here goes…

If you look like a duck and quack like a duck… You sure as heck ain’t a fluffy puppy

“You are what you eat” we say (Really? I don’t feel very brocolli-ish at the moment. Just sayin’…). Could we not also say “You are what you do and say”? I don’t know about you, but most days I feel more like an angry Daffy Duck than a partridge in a pear tree. On some level, aren’t I an ambassador for whatever it is I think I represent? In my deepest of deep thoughts, the things that I wish I was and wish I did? When I say something unpleasant about someone behind their back, am I a strong advocate for decency and love, or a poster-child for Idiots-are-Us? I guess if you feel that you represent assholes the world over, then it would be logical that you uphold those values in what you do. But when I am rude to the teller at a grocery store, or revel in my periodic road rage — what constituency am I advocating for? Definitely not Awesome-Dads-are-Us.

All I am saying (yes, yes. There is a point, dear friend), is that is crazy to think that we can uphold one set of values in our head, yet express a completely different one in our words and actions. None of us are perfect, but I know I can’t blithely espouse something that isn’t represented in the way that matters.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character — Albert Einstein

Passive Aggressive is still Aggressive

Despite what some might think (Apologies to all those that I have offended over time), I actually avoid conflict. I have a desperate, and heartfelt, need for the whole world to love me for being me. If I am honest, my instinct is to make a poor decision if it still means you will be my friend (Partly I blame Mr. Rogers for this. May he and his sweaters rest in peace!). It might just be me, but have you noticed a trend in behavior from straight-up, in-your-face mortal verbal-combat to more subtle, revenge-is-best-served-cold kind of non-verbal combat? It makes some sort of devious sense. I mean, why should I actively confront your ideas, and expend all that energy, when I can more easily, and subtly, undermine you from afar? Why indeed? A passive aggressive approach is just a lot easier and requires a lot less paperwork.

Now, you say — “I saw ‘conscientiousness’ in the pretentious (another SAT word — you’re welcome) title above. Are you, sir, advocating for aggressive behavior?” “Why, not at all, dear friend (no idea why I am writing in stilted 19th century movie-English now, but let’s go for it)”. I guess what I am saying is that I want to be more honest in my disagreements. If I have a problem with what someone else says or does, I should find a way to respect them enough to get it out in the open. Passive aggressive behavior is just my way of chickening-out of confronting the awful possibility that someone might not love me for some period of time. Well, despite the admonitions of the Beatles, we might need some honesty on top of our love sundae (It’s the whole salty-sweet thing. Very popular in NoCal).

“Love without sacrifice is like theft” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb

No matter what Paul Simon says, you aren’t an Island

Human behavior is endlessly fascinating and endlessly self-contradictory, when you think about it. I don’t think anybody would think it appropriate if I walked up to my colleague’s cube at work and calmly farted in their face and walked away without a word (won’t get that image out of your mind for a while, will you?! You’re welcome!). Yet, post an honest opinion about a whole range of subjects on Facebook and people you haven’t spoken to years will crawl out of the woodwork to roundly condemn your idiocy and denounce your complete disregard for their sacred opinions and all they stand for.

As a society you can probably agree that we have made at least some progress in respecting other people’s differences. And that’s very good. You could also argue that we have made great strides in the fine art of demanding that others accommodate our own cherished me-ness. I know that I personally have a doctorate in Listen-while-I-Pontificate Science while I barely have a grade school education in Shut-up-and-Listen (strained mixed metaphors are my jam. Keep up!). I can’t tell anybody else what do (especially the Internet Trolls and the Russians. Which have a lot overlap, of course #ReleaseTheMemo #TrollsAreUs), but what I can do is change my own self.

So, as Elvis said (May he Rest/Hide in Peace) — “A little less converation”, a little more listening . “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me” (What does “satisfactioning” mean anyway? Sounds painful. And yes. The internet says those are the words).

Ok, if you have made this far, I should really do you the service of wrapping this up nicely in a bow. But, honestly, my wife is watching Riverdale, and it is becoming hard to focus on this thing we are doing here. So, let’s just say “You do you, and I’ll do me”. Nope, nope. That’s not it. “Be true to yourself”. Ehhh. So cliche. Hmmm. How about this? Unless you and I get the get-out-jail-card of the Zombie/Super-Virus/Super-Robots apocalypse scenario (at which point it is clearly expected that we should walk around with shotguns and have constant, adrenaline-pumping PG-13+ drama), we should all worry a little less about ourselves and stop to think about what everybody else thinks. Because you never know. They might be right.

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