Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pay attention to those who disagree with you...

flickr cc image via mwlguide

"The only things Mick and I disagree about is the band, the music and what we do." Kieth Richards

There are three types of people we all interact with on a daily basis: strangers, acquaintances and friends. We see them at work, at play and often just pass them by as we go about our business. There is a quantum nature to our interactions with others, and we never really know where they will take us as we navigate each day. There are some elements to the relationships we develop that need to be considered carefully if we are to avoid unproductive or perhaps even debilitating interactions with others. One rule of thumb I go by is to simply be aware that strangers dismiss, acquaintances agree and friends question. Please, let me explain...

Strangers are those whom we have no direct connection to. We may sit beside them on the transit, pass them by on the street or perhaps buy something from them, but we don't really communicate with them beyond the artificial surface-level "how are you doing" type of exchange. We interact, then we dismiss each other.

Acquaintances are those whom we have an ongoing connection to. They are our co-workers, friends-of-friends or those whom we see regularly because our daily goings on share a common element. We communicate more regularly with acquaintances, but it doesn't generally advance beyond small talk designed to pass the time without much thought of deeper meaning or more involved dialog. We interact, and just agree with each other... we don't want to think too much.

"Nine out of ten Americans believe that out of ten people, one person will always disagree with the other nine!"
Colin Mochrie

Friends are those whom we have a deeper connection to; they are the inner circle of our tribe. We may not communicate with them regularly, but we never lose our bond with each other. Something in our past has strengthened our relationship to the point where we consider each other as confidants; those willing to listen to us and support us. We interact in deeper more involved ways, and as a result there is occasional conflict involved... but this is good. This is what makes friends so much more valuable to us than acquaintances or strangers.

Friends are those who will call us out when we are on the wrong track. Friends are those who don't let us get away with anything- they hold us to a higher standard. The most important role of a friend is to disagree with us. Friends take the time to critically analyze us, and they can because they know us well. They take the time to scrutinize our actions, feelings and words because they care about us and they care what we do. Even if we become annoyed or upset with our friends as a result of their scrutiny, we must remember that they care and that makes them who they are- people who support us by grounding, balancing and questioning our actions feeling and words.

"The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know." Napoleon Bonaparte

Pay attention to those who disagree with you... these people are your friends and they see something in you that you may not see yourself- a person that can be better.
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