Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Open Letter to Those who Suspect I Dislike Them

Glaring at hubby: a vacation photo tradition
When I was a kid I had a diary. Reading it, you might think I had a miserable childhood. The truth is just that I only wrote when I was sad or mad; I was too busy enjoying life the rest of the time.    

I got to thinking about this when my mentor reminded me to balance the tone of my social media presence. If I primarily blog my criticisms of the efforts of well-meaning people and repost social commentaries, a lot of the folks I'm trying to influence might dismiss me as a grump.

That’s not who I am—at least, not all the time. Idealistic, stubborn passionate, and opinionated pensive, yes, I’ll agree to those labels. And yes, that can result in such profound frustration that sometimes I feel flames on the side of my face (Mom jokes that I popped out of her womb screaming with righteous indignation). Frequently, though, it also manifests as playfulness, hospitality, and moments of serenity. Married life has put a damper on my flirtatiousness and I’m less likely to let loose at a party now that I’m a pastor and Foreign Service spouse, but I still can be a load of laughs in the right setting. I’m not half bad as a shoulder to cry on, either.

For reasons I don’t fully understand (Pro bono offers of psychoanalysis and behavioral modification therapy welcomed), it has been noted that I am socially awkward in some settings yet charismatic in others. This doesn’t seem to have any correlation with how interested I am in befriending the people in these settings. For example, a few years back I was excited to meet a colleague of my husband who, based on descriptions, sounded like she could be my next best friend. Despite my efforts, though, our conversations reeked of forced politeness; I concluded she wasn’t fond of me and stopped trying. About a year later, my husband decided to put an end to my “Why doesn’t she like me?”s and asked her directly if I had made a faux pas or somehow offended her.  He returned home with this shocker: She had been wondering why I disliked her!

I’d write this off as an isolated tragic-comedy, but anecdotal evidence suggests a pattern. I suspect there are others who have incorrectly assumed I disliked them just as I have discovered I have been wrong in such assumptions (and have obsessed about all the ways I can be off-putting).  Hence, this self-disclosing post. (Links to studies or articles about this phenomenon are welcome; I've never found one, but I hope they exist).  If I ever crack the code to what's really going on, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I'll wrap up with this:

If we've met and you suspected I disliked you, chances are it was the setting putting me out of my comfort zone--or me struggling to find a conversation topic that seemed to interest you--or me wanting to share with you about one of my passions--or me thinking that you weren't fond of me.  It could even have been me trying too hard to fill the uncomfortable silences with chatter. And while yes, occasionally there are people I find offensive or hard to respect, the chances that you (someone who reads this blog) are one of them are rather slim.

So, if we happen to find ourselves in the same town, perhaps you would like to share a meal or a hot beverage?


4 comments:

Jill Larsen said...

Taylor, I suffer from the sam phenomenon. If you happen to find a solution, I would really be happy to learn it. In the mean time, I am also happy to share a hot beverage or a meal any time you and your lovely family are in town.

Jill Larsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Катя said...

I love you. You are one of my favorite people, even when we are awkward :-)

Taylor Walters Denyer said...

Thanks Jill and Kate. Jill--Yes, let's do food and beverages when I'm back. Kate-- Let's get better at staying in communication.