sometimes, it's not hard to figure out what the problem may be.
It took a friend I play hockey with to point out the metaphysical piece of toilet paper trailing on my shoe: in some circumstances, I have the capacity to be a petulant bully. I honestly had no idea, and it got me thinking: perhaps I’m perpetrating a whole bunch of anti-social behaviours I don’t know about that demand correction.
So I reached out to some of my closest friends, asking them to share one bad thing about me. Being my friends and knowing me well, I figured they would have informed opinions based on long experience as well as personal judgment. I assured them they could be honest and forthright knowing I wouldn’t get offended, but to make it easier for them to share (and for me to hear it) I also asked them to say one good thing. Here’s how they responded:
Chris is a man who boasts many interests, and chief among them is himself. Chris is a man who boasts many interests, and chief among them is himself. I have oft been regaled long into the night as he holds forth lustily and at length on the subject of said self, regardless of the level of interest exhibited by his captive audience. That said, his is a condition common to many men of a certain age who have yet to meet the sacrifices required by fatherhood. The good news is that he’s an exellent sport and I know he will take this on the chin.
That’s from Guy, a friend who backs up his loyalty with action. He’s also blunt and preternaturally critical, so I knew I could count on him to give me something truly cutting. Guy did not disappoint. I’ve always thought I’ve been somewhat circumspect when it comes to discussing the topic of me, but I can admit I’m wrong…either that, or Guy is just sick of hanging out with me. Either way, it was excellent criticism, and exactly the kind for which I’m looking.
Good thing: Seemingly unfiltered. Like, you always show yourself to be exactly who you are, which makes you fun to be around because it comes from such an honest place that is so sincere & genuine, it feels special to be a part of it – we always know a visit with Chris will be one of our favorites of the year.
Bad thing: You don’t always listen, including to yourself.
That’s from my friends Katie and Colby, a married couple so cute you just want to throw them both off the roof of a skyscraper. They need to give themselves more credit for making me feel safe enough to be myself. As for their criticism…I think perhaps an inability to listen goes hand-in-hand with a penchant for talking about oneself at length, as Guy suggests I do. The most charismatic people on earth are great listeners (it’s been said that Bill Clinton listened so well he could make you feel like the only person in the room), so this is sage advice. I’m not sure if by suggesting that I don’t listen to myself that I’m talking bullshit (“Just listen to yourself!”) but Katie and Colby would be neither so mean nor so obtuse, so it’s probably something else…I hope.
Good thing: You are a totally non-judgmental person.
Bad Thing: You try too hard. You get a little pretentious, or you name drop or put on a show, and it comes across as phoney. Stop being afraid to just be yourself.
That last one was courtesy of my friend Catherine. It seems to contradict what Katie and Colby are saying, although its perhaps more a matter of me “putting on the dog” for someone with whom I want to either work or date. It’s troublesome to think I’m giving the exact opposite impression of what I want them to have, but at least now I know why I’m still single at my age and can barely find work.
Good thing: Amazing speaker/story teller. You always hold the attention of the people you’re talking to and deliver so well. One of the most thoughtful, entertaining people I know.
Bad thing: Overly intense on first impressions. You outshine too quickly with your character and delivery and it turns off some people. Perhaps slow it down and allow the meek to open up a bit before going full tilt. Ease them into a full Nelson.
Ease them into a full Nelson.
Yikes! Intense on first impressions…suddenly I think I’m coming across as Ted Bundy after he’s drank a case of Red Bull. However, I love my friend Peter’s ability to soften his criticism, as though I’m so interesting it’s just…TOO!…MUCH!! Nonetheless he’s right. I’m prone to filling the gaps left in conversations by others, gaps that perhaps should be filled by someone else.
Good Thing: One of your most compelling characteristics is an unbridled ability to ooze WARMTH. There’s a genuine glow that you radiate when conversing with others; an interest in what someone has to say, excitement for another persons stories & experience. You laugh easily and envelope people with a feeling of utter ease & comfort. Back in the day, I introduced you to an older actor I knew, a terrific BORE of a man. I tried to communicate my embarrassment with pleading looks of apology everytime something radically stupid came out of his mouth. But no matter! You had filed away any inkling of judgement for this person, and embraced everything he said with an open mind & heart. My respect for you soared! You were so warm, so genuinely interested and so good natured about the whole experience that I vowed to try to be as graceful & kind as you are; to be as open & good natured when I found myself in similar circumstances.
Bad Thing: I believe that you may fall prey to putting too much emphasis on outward appearences, and if you stopped scanning rooms for the most outwardly beautiful woman in the room, you’d have a better shot at an enduring worthwhile relationship.
This is from my amiga Shannon, and her good comment directly contradicts what Guy, Katie and Colby just said. I haven’t seen Shannon as recently as I’ve seen the others, so perhaps I used to listen to others well but over time I’ve gotten WORSE! As for her bad comment…guilty as charged. Mind you, EVERY guy does this, whether they cop to it or not. In my defense I have little in common with the most beautiful women in the room, which is why I’ve cultivated relationships with the most interesting ones instead. Then again, none of those interesting relationships have worked out, so perhaps I need to date more vapid hotties.
Good thing: You are genuinely curious and eager to learn, and I have never once seen you treat people differently based on their connections or status. You make people feel welcome and like you are interested in their life, regardless of who they are.
Bad thing: You use self-deprecation as a means of hiding or avoiding. Sometimes it reads as someone not confident enough to put themselves out there and apply 100 per cent effort, and other times it reads as possibly false modesty, like you know you’re good at something but don’t want to seem like a douche for saying so. I’m not saying this is the truth, it’s just how it reads.
...I have to re-learn how to add more to the lives of others than I take away.
Once again, a note from a friend I haven’t seen in a while whose good comments make me think I’m worse today than I was a few years ago. Could it be that as my life becomes increasingly more lacklustre, I’m getting more self-absorbed and thoughtless? The tragedy of my life could be the less interesting I become, the more I talk about myself. As for the bad thing – well, I used to tell people that self-deprecation is something ego-maniacs use to hide their vanity. By the way, did I mention I hate myself?
This is from my friend Piers:
Good thing: very well-spoken.
Bad Thing: occasionally glib.
What I say: Points for brevity.
You act without first considering how others might feel about what you’re doing.
That’s from the woman I’m currently seeing. She’s absolutely right. What’s worse? I take actions that I know might affect others, but I don’t want them to prevent me from doing what I want. I always believed in the adage ”it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission”, but maybe it’s time to let my unilateralism go.
Soooo…..I’d had many responses to my request, and if there is a trend emerging from my friend’s comments, it’s this: I have a great capacity for warmth and charity of spirit, but I am more self-aborbsed and less considerate today than I have been in the past. This is bittersweet news, as it means that friends have had to put up with my douchey behavour of the past few months (years?), but also that they’ve seen enough good stuff in me that they’re prepared to tolerate it…for now, at least. If there’s one message in all of this is, I think it’s this: if I want to be a Better Man I have to re-learn how to add more to the lives of others than I take away.