Why Do We Tell People It's All In Their Heads? [Discussion/Rant]

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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:28 am

@Takuan: It seems like the common thread is that people are much more likely to assent to a person's declaration that they have a problem if they frame it as "I have this problem, how can I fix it?" rather than "I have this problem, so I am hopeless." I suspect that this is probably because the forum is much more advice-oriented than support-oriented, and also probably because helping other people's self-pity along is depressing, cognitively taxing, and unlikely to lead anywhere productive, so people are understandably disinclined to do it.

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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:30 am

Glides, not going to mod out on you for it, but frankly your "easily impressed" comment was pretty condescending and not kind to the posters that do actually care about you. Please cool it.

Compliments are tricky. When used nonharmfully (I am excluding uses for manipulation in this discussion), sometimes they are reflexive attempts to comfort, almost like saying "I am so sorry" when someone's relative dies/gets sick. Sometimes they are heartfelt signs of appreciation. And sometimes they are both.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:34 am

The actual underlying reason is academically interesting to me, but I think all I was really getting at was that I don't find the general tone of the forum to be easily impressed, nor insincere. Thoughts to the contrary contain more jerk-brain than truth.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:40 am

nearly_takuan wrote:The actual underlying reason is academically interesting to me, but I think all I was really getting at was that I don't find the general tone of the forum to be easily impressed, nor insincere. Thoughts to the contrary contain more jerk-brain than truth.

Oh, totally! I should probably have added "so, what motivates people to object to certain kinds of complaints-about-self on the forums isn't insincerity, but a desire to reframe the problem so it's possible to talk about productively."

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:30 am

LadyLuck wrote: All of these things above seem to revolve around someone else taking some kind of action that shows approval of your skill/appearance/actions/effort/whatever. Given your comments about not wanting to "inflate" your abilities... it sounds like, to you, part of what defines being "Good" at something is having other people agree that you're good at it. For you, there's no such thing as having your skills unappreciated while secretly being a master. Or at least, that situation is by far the exception, not the rule. Even more specifically, a person who is sufficiently skilled, will be recognized as such by a similarly skilled person.

Yep you are right on the money.

LadyLuck wrote:Another thing that comes up in your reasoning is that people tend to only bring up "but you're really good!" as a way of arguing with you. It kind of implies that you would be more inclined to believe it if it were a spontaneously given compliment. However, people generally don't spontaneously compliment stuff unless its something far beyond their personal skills/experiences, AND its something they vaguely care about to some degree. At the same time, people often apply the same metrics to "bad" - I'll only call someone else's bad if I think I can do it myself much better with really trying (and sometimes not even then). Because people's evaluation scales are so damn relative, there's going to be a frequent mismatch between what you think is "good/bad", what I think is "good/bad", and so on. I'm guessing this is part of why you specifically want the opinion of someone who's skilled, so that you know this confusion isn't just causing false positives. Is this so?

Nailed it again! Along the lines of "people don't spontaneously compliment stuff unless...", I think that's part of why I believe spontaneously compliments more; it means my skills are remarkable enough to warrant a compliment.

LadyLuck wrote:
It seems to me, you have a STRONG aversion to behaving or coming off like this "sore loser MtG player". You don't want to be that overconfident player that everyone laughs about behind his back. Let's be honest, no one does. I can get this feeling - like you, I probably oversold my abilities a bit in high school.

Dear Lord, yes. I will do anything to avoid being this person. I think there's something... particularly gross about overconfidence, though I can't quite nail down what.
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Post by Mel on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:17 am

I think it's worth keeping in mind, though, that it can be equally frustrating to people to deal with someone who comes across in the opposite way: who attributes all their successes to luck or people being unfairly kind to them, and all their failures to their weaknesses and/or lack of skill. It provokes a different reaction--closer to sadness than anger, I'd say, usually--but it still comes across as a cognitive dissonance that a lot of people are going to find difficult to support. Really, any blanket dismissal of one type of data (whether the positive or the negative) is going to tend to provoke frustration and argument.

I don't know to what extent this applies to you, Marty, because I don't know how you interact with people IRL. But I've definitely seen the "it's not X problem, it's the way you're thinking about it" comment given to other people in situations where, yes, that person had gotten feedback from some people that X was the problem, but they'd also gotten feedback from others (usually including the person saying this) that X seemed fine to them, and they're pushing back because they feel that perspective is being unfairly dismissed while the other is being given too much weight.
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Post by reboot on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:17 am

I think I am understanding where you are coming from better, RBS. In the past you oversold your abilities and maybe bragged them up a bit which led to blowback and being called on you exaggeration. After that, you decided you needed to not toot your own horn and be more selective in accepting praise and avoid seeking praise. However, you still want feedback because you distrust your own ability to assess the quality of your work, but you are not sure what feedback to trust and it has you tangled in knots.

I have never been in a similar situation because I am wired and acculturated differently due to age, so the best I can do is offer a few tips:

Praise after you said something negative/doubting about your work: Most likely comfort praise. You can ignore the content, but try not to argue back because the person most likely just wants you to feel better. However, partially accept the praise if it is coupled with specific things that they liked. Those specific things are good in the eyes of that person.

Praise offered freely with specific points that they liked: even if you do not see it, in that person's eyes things were good. How much weight you give to the praise can be assessed by the person's expertise and experience if that matters to you, but even compliments from non experts are sincere and they tend to see the totality not the technicalities.

Praise offered freely coupled with critique: same as above. Do not let the fact that some things were critiqued overshadow the praise. They should be given equal weight. People often like some things about an item/media but not others even if as a whole they like what they are discussing. This type of thing is very common in nerd/geek circles. I am sure you can think of things that you like, but would like more if they were changed.

Praise from a trusted authority: I think you are OK on this so I will not detail unless you want me to.
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Post by Guest on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:33 am

Marty, have you ever read the book "Thanks for the Feedback," by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone?

It's a fantastic book about how to process solicited and unsolicited feedback, and may have value for you.

One thing they do is to separate feedback into 3 categories (and I totally have the labels wrong, because I don't have the book with me now):

1. Affirmation ("you're doing great! Keep it up!")
2. Development ("Here are concrete steps you can take to be better")
3. Performance ("At your current level, this is how you are doing compared to expectations.")

We all need all 3 kinds of feedback sometimes, but there's a real cognitive dissonance when you want or need or expect one kind of feedback and you get another. If you want performance feedback and get development feedback, you can feel like you're inadequate, because there are all these things to improve. If you want development and get affirmation, you're frustrated and annoyed.

Friends, for the most part, are best at affirmation, so that's what we get. It doesn't mean they're being dishonest or disingenuous, it just means they're trying to encourage you rather than evaluate you.

If you're actively looking for development or performance feedback, you might need to phrase questions differently. One of the book's recommended questions for development feedback is, "What is one thing I'm doing or failing to do that is getting in my own way?"

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Post by Guest on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:35 am

I think a lot of it is in how much you make someone do work in interacting with you (general you, not Marty or anyone else in particular). See, to me, someone who reacts to a simple compliment by arguing about how I'm wrong, and their whatever isn't that good anyway, someone helped them with it etc. is trying to make me justify my entirely subjective opinion, and is assuming that they deserve a lot more of my time and energy than I probably expected to expend when I complimented them.

If someone did this to me a lot, I would first stop giving them compliments, but if it escalates (as in my experience it often does) to making whole conversations about them and their crapness, I would write that person off as hard work, entitled and a drama queen and I would reduce my interactions with them to the most basic of courtesies.

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:06 pm

Mel wrote:I think it's worth keeping in mind, though, that it can be equally frustrating to people to deal with someone who comes across in the opposite way: who attributes all their successes to luck or people being unfairly kind to them, and all their failures to their weaknesses and/or lack of skill. It provokes a different reaction--closer to sadness than anger, I'd say, usually--but it still comes across as a cognitive dissonance that a lot of people are going to find difficult to support.  Really, any blanket dismissal of one type of data (whether the positive or the negative) is going to tend to provoke frustration and argument.

I admit, I have a hard time figuring out what that would be frustrating. For me, overconfidence is dangerous and bad because it sets up unrealistic expectations. Let's say I was always telling people how great I am at fixing cars. My friend's car breaks down, and she asks me to take a look at it, since I'm so amazing at cars and everything. Oh, well, it actually turns out I'm only competent. Now I've disappointed my friend, and potentially hurt her (she now has to spend money on a mechanic.)

While embertine points out that supporting someone who argues against compliments can be exhausting (I fully admit, IRL I argue with compliments because people seemed to not believe me when I told them to stop giving me "feel good" compliments, they wouldn't listen, so I tried to make the experience not worth it for them), I guess I don't see how it's bad to set low expectations. If no one thinks I'm good at a thing, I can never disappoint them or let them down about that thing.

For example, if people think I'm dumb, they're never going to be angry at me when I say something dumb (I do that a lot; I have the Amy March problem of mispronouncing words) because hey, it's not like I'm smart or something.

Mel wrote:
I don't know to what extent this applies to you, Marty, because I don't know how you interact with people IRL. But I've definitely seen the "it's not X problem, it's the way you're thinking about it" comment given to other people in situations where, yes, that person had gotten feedback from some people that X was the problem, but they'd also gotten feedback from others (usually including the person saying this) that X seemed fine to them, and they're pushing back because they feel that perspective is being unfairly dismissed while the other is being given too much weight.

I act largely the same IRL that I do here. I probably don't focus with quite such intensity on certain topics like dating and social expectations. My thing is.... why should and when does the "it's fine" perspective get to override the original feedback? Using myself as an example, if boyfriends tell me I'm ugly, and friends tell me I'm fine, and we're talking about it in the context of dating, shouldn't the boyfriends' perspective get more weight because they're, ya know, who I'm dating?
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Post by Guest on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:13 pm

Using myself as an example, if boyfriends tell me I'm ugly, and friends tell me I'm fine, and we're talking about it in the context of dating, shouldn't the boyfriends' perspective get more weight because they're, ya know, who I'm dating?
In the context of wanting to date you, yes of course. I tend to find most of my friends physically appealing, because I like them, and I like to look at people I like. But actually fancy them? Hell no!

It's up to you whose opinions you give weight to, but if you tend to believe only the bad feedback then your perspective is likely to be just as skewed as someone's who believes only the good.

By the way, I find that "Please do not pay me compliments because it makes me uncomfortable", followed by awkward silences if they persist, is the best way of shutting that down. It also removes the stigma of being accused of being a drama queen or fishing for compliments, both things I think people have said to you in the past IIRC.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:18 pm

reboundstudent wrote:While embertine points out that supporting someone who argues against compliments can be exhausting (I fully admit, IRL I argue with compliments because people seemed to not believe me when I told them to stop giving me "feel good" compliments, they wouldn't listen, so I tried to make the experience not worth it for them), I guess I don't see how it's bad to set low expectations. If no one thinks I'm good at a thing, I can never disappoint them or let them down about that thing.

For example, if people think I'm dumb, they're never going to be angry at me when I say something dumb (I do that a lot; I have the Amy March problem of mispronouncing words) because hey, it's not like I'm smart or something.

They also can never ask you for help/advice/insight on a thing; it'd be a reasonable assumption that you'd just decline on the basis of not thinking you're good enough at it. How is it good to pretend you have nothing to offer anyone?

I pronounce words wrong all the time, too, or use them in slightly off contexts—generally words I've never heard spoken before and didn't look up in a dictionary after I read them.

And I'm still kind of generally grossed out by the idea that there are all these people in your life who not only use words like "dumb" and "ugly" to describe other people, but will do it in front of the person they're describing. I know children with better manners.
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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:53 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:
They also can never ask you for help/advice/insight on a thing; it'd be a reasonable assumption that you'd just decline on the basis of not thinking you're good enough at it. How is it good to pretend you have nothing to offer anyone?

Because maybe you don't. I'll rush to insist this doesn't mean you lack worth as a human being or anything, just that you really might not have anything valuable to offer. The world is filled with so, so many people, so many of them amazing and talented and super human. It's really not surprising that in such a vast pool, you might not have anything unique or worthwhile.

Put it another way: if you take a group of 100 people, and only give them 5 colors to choose from as their favorite, you're going to have multiple people picking the same color. There are, what, 5.42 million people in my state alone. There are only so many available traits/hobbies when you're blocked in by circumstances of birth (white, middle class, English speaking.) I've mentioned before how I've gone on OKCupid and seen girls who are like me, only better versions of me. We're both writers, but they're published. We both cosplay, but they can draft patterns and have popular YouTube channels. We both speak Japanese, but they're fluent and lived there for 3 years instead of my measly 1, and so on.

When ya meet so many of Better-Version-of-Yourselves walking around, ya gotta kinda stop and go," Really, how unique am I??"


nearly_takuan wrote:
And I'm still kind of generally grossed out by the idea that there are all these people in your life who not only use words like "dumb" and "ugly" to describe other people, but will do it in front of the person they're describing. I know children with better manners.

None of my friends, or boyfriends, have called me ugly, they've all been "coded ugly" words like "Well you're cute, not hot. Which is good, because hot girls are stuck up! Except my ex, she was cute AND hot. But I like cute!"

And as far as manners.... meh. I'd rather know what someone really thinks of me, even if it's not complimentary.
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Post by LadyLuck on Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:41 pm

Well, now that I have a better basis to work from, on where you're coming from...I actually have a friend who used to take a similar tact, just claiming to be bad at everything, setting low/no expectations, etc. My boyfriend also has done it on occasion. Thing is, when it involves something I *KNOW* they are in fact physically/mentally capable of, like "pretend to listen to me vent for 5-10min", it ends up reading very negatively. In many cases, it feels like they're looking to get out of trying to help (be it me or someone else) - "Well I'm not good at this, so you shouldn't be asking me for help". But in many cases, I don't know someone who is better at it, who I'd simultaneously trust to help me. So getting the feeling that one of the people I do trust, doesn't even want to help, hurts. The fact my friend needs to lower expectations also kind of implies that she doesn't think I'd appreciate her efforts, that I won't think her just being willing to put in work on my behalf is good enough. When I ask for help, while it would certainly suck to not get informed help, it would suck more to feel like no one's wants to help at all. I'm not saying this is the one and only interpretation of such actions, but rather what it feels like having been on the receiving end of it on more then a few occasions.

On a certain level, saying "no can't help I'm bad at that" kind of reads like a soft no, I think, at least for some things. Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not, but it's an excuse that doesn't make any obvious negative statements about the other person and therefore passes as "polite". But its still essentially a rejection, which is ok. But when overused, it becomes less believable at face value, similar to someone who always has "other plans" or has something "come up". Furthermore, repeated use of any combination of soft no's still communicates "I don't actually want to do X with/for you". Which yeah, is going to result in the rejected party feeling bad, since they did essentially just get rejected...a necessary evil if rejection is in fact what was intended...

But! I'm pretty sure that none of this is actually what you(RBS) intend. You aren't saying "Nope can't help I'm not really good at that" as a soft no, you're saying it *because you actually believe it*. This might explain some of the difficulties you're having on this front - there's just sort of a communication disconnect going on between what you're saying and trying to communicate, and what other people are hearing and getting out of your words.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:46 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Because maybe you don't. I'll rush to insist this doesn't mean you lack worth as a human being or anything, just that you really might not have anything valuable to offer. The world is filled with so, so many people, so many of them amazing and talented and super human. It's really not surprising that in such a vast pool, you might not have anything unique or worthwhile.

Put it another way: if you take a group of 100 people, and only give them 5 colors to choose from as their favorite, you're going to have multiple people picking the same color. There are, what, 5.42 million people in my state alone. There are only so many available traits/hobbies when you're blocked in by circumstances of birth (white, middle class, English speaking.) I've mentioned before how I've gone on OKCupid and seen girls who are like me, only better versions of me. We're both writers, but they're published. We both cosplay, but they can draft patterns and have popular YouTube channels. We both speak Japanese, but they're fluent and lived there for 3 years instead of my measly 1, and so on.

When ya meet so many of Better-Version-of-Yourselves walking around, ya gotta kinda stop and go," Really, how unique am I??"

I don't know about you, but I don't have time to make friends with 5.42 million people. I don't have the mental capacity to apply the things I do think I'm good at toward helping them. I don't have the emotional bandwidth to care about them.

A couple months ago I donated my laptop to my sister and built a PC for myself. The friend I chose to ask for help picking parts is not even the best computer-person I know, or the best computer-person I'm friends with. Actually now that I think about it, out of all the people I know who would know something about building a computer, he's probably the least knowledgeable. I mean, I actually know more than he does; mostly I just wanted another pair of eyes to help make sure I was choosing reasonable things. But: he had free time, was willing and eager to help, had first-hand knowledge of the kinds of games and applications I tend to use, and—coming from a similar social/economic background—had similar instincts about acceptable price ranges and weighing expensive longevity against cheap short-term function. I still don't know if all those things really made him objectively the best man for the job, but I also don't really care; we were both satisfied with the outcome.

As far as dating goes, options are "relatively thin on the ground" for me; since all evidence indicates that the average woman has no romantic interest in me at all, I assume anyone who does concede to date me would probably have had fairly slim pickings, too (unless they have a certain kind of fetish, which I have now seen good and bad examples of Razz ). In the "objective" sense of measuring romantic success, that would make both me and that person "inferior" to most others, right? But to me, that contributes to a sense of uniqueness in that hypothetical person (so unique they might not exist!), not just because it's a rare quality on its own but also because it's bundled with several other qualities and nebulous unknown traits that for whatever reason I like.

Or I might lay it out like: "person whom I like", "person who likes me", "person I have met", "person who is good at X", "person who is willing to do X", and many other configurations of factors are important to me in deciding what a person has to offer me and what I have to offer them, and if there are dependent relationships among those factors, they are hard to spot; I don't have to think you qualify as the bestest on the sum of any number of axes for me to think of those attributes as valuable or worth complimenting/affirming or important parts of who you are.

Oh, I like LadyLuck's point about trust, too. That can also be a separate variable from "like"; there are people I enjoy spending time with or being in the company of, but wouldn't trust to actually see something through after saying they'd help, or to control the spread of gossip, or to take me seriously if I try to talk about something personal. (On the other hand, there is a very strong correlation in the other direction—if I view someone as honorable, or worthy of my trust and respect, I probably like them personally, too.)

reboundstudent wrote:None of my friends, or boyfriends, have called me ugly, they've all been "coded ugly" words like "Well you're cute, not hot. Which is good, because hot girls are stuck up! Except my ex, she was cute AND hot. But I like cute!"

Oh, I misunderstood. They're just idiots, then; that I have no difficulty believing. (Like seriously, I don't know which is worse—the idea that they're intentionally negging, or the idea that they're so bad at articulating compliments that they unintentionally deliver them with the backs of their hands.)
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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:10 pm

nearly_takuan wrote: Oh, I misunderstood. They're just idiots, then; that I have no difficulty believing. (Like seriously, I don't know which is worse—the idea that they're intentionally negging, or the idea that they're so bad at articulating compliments that they unintentionally deliver them with the backs of their hands.)

My interpretation is slightly different. I don't believe they were negging OR offering me a badly articulated compliment; I think they were passive-aggressively trying to let me know they didn't dig me, and I just didn't get the hint.

As to the rest of your post, I admit, I did not understand any of it. Yes, you don't want to be friends with 5.2 million people. But you pick your friends and your partners out of that 5.2 million, and chances are, you want friends who are objectively and uniquely awesome. If you have Person A and Person B, and both of them have the same qualities that you want, but Person B's qualities are more awesome, of course you'll pick B.

Now, if the traits you want are thin on the ground, then perhaps you'll settle for average. But the traits I have are not thin on the ground, pretty much anywhere. You can find a better version of me inside of 10 city blocks easy. So why like the average person when you can be friends with the awesome person?
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:12 pm

Now I've disappointed my friend, and potentially hurt her (she now has to spend money on a mechanic.)

How have you potentially hurt someone by being unable to fix a problem that exists independently of you? Your friend is going to have to get the car fixed anyway; at least you tried, and it's not like you caused the damage. Why take to heart what is really, at the end of the day, someone else's problem?

We both speak Japanese, but they're fluent and lived there for 3 years instead of my measly 1, and so on.

Speaking any foreign language makes you unique among most Americans. The fact that you speak Japanese highlights you more. Isn't the fact that it takes a website full of millions of people from all over the country to find another Japanese-speaking bilingual American enough of a caveat to retain some pride in the accomplishment?

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:36 pm

Conreezy wrote:
Speaking any foreign language makes you unique among most Americans.  The fact that you speak Japanese highlights you more.  Isn't the fact that it takes a website full of millions of people from all over the country to find another Japanese-speaking bilingual American enough of a caveat to retain some pride in the accomplishment?

Actually, this is a great example. When I say "I speak Japanese," people hear "I speak Japanese comparably on the same level I speak English." So when I follow up with "Oh no, I'm actually pretty bad at it" people insist I'm being hard on myself. But I have a much better gauge of my abilities than they do. My Japanese is, like, the Japanese of 3 year olds. Even when I was at my peak I understood maaaaaybe 25% of what was said around me. I could only read basic children's books. (The fox is red! Laugh, dog, laugh!) A guy who learned Japanese entirely from hentai knew the language better than me.

So then I feel the need to argue because, no really, I'm kinda bad at it guys, and then people dig their heels in and think I'm being self-effacing or tiring or negative when I'm really just trying to correct a big misconception.

Furthermore, speaking a foreign language may make me unique among Americans generally, but among people who are like me, nope, not unique. White, middle class, college educated folks consider being fluent in a second language the base bottom of achievements. So it's like... I'm unique for a demographic group I don't belong to and can't really join, but I'm low-to-average unique for my own demographic group.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:46 pm

reboundstudent wrote:My interpretation is slightly different. I don't believe they were negging OR offering me a badly articulated compliment; I think they were passive-aggressively trying to let me know they didn't dig me, and I just didn't get the hint.

There's an easier way to say that, too: "I think we'd get along better as friends."

No matter how you look at it it's tactless, thoughtless, and frankly downright mean. Like, given that attributes like being "hot" or "sexy" have basically no value to me even though I'm still capable of assessing conventional measures of attractiveness within a margin of error, I might think "hey, this person's good-looking but not remotely hot, and I think that's pretty great". But if I wanted to tell them that, I'd begin and end with "you look good" or "I really like the way you look". It's equally true but doesn't include a negative judgment.

reboundstudent wrote:As to the rest of your post, I admit, I did not understand any of it. Yes, you don't want to be friends with 5.2 million people. But you pick your friends and your partners out of that 5.2 million, and chances are, you want friends who are objectively and uniquely awesome. If you have Person A and Person B, and both of them have the same qualities that you want, but Person B's qualities are more awesome, of course you'll pick B.

Now, if the traits you want are thin on the ground, then perhaps you'll settle for average. But the traits I have are not thin on the ground, pretty much anywhere. You can find a better version of me inside of 10 city blocks easy. So why like the average person when you can be friends with the awesome person?

There are all kinds of reasons I wouldn't be friends with the awesome person; the easiest for me to think of are:

  • I'm not awesome enough for them
  • I would be awesome enough for them, but they already have lots of friends they're attached/bonded/loyal to and don't have room for me in their lives
  • They're awesome, but I already have lots of friends I'm attached/bonded/loyal to and don't have room for them in my life
  • No matter how "awesome" either of us might be, our personalities and tastes just don't mesh well.


I don't think this means I'm undervaluing the people I do have some kind of relationship with, or that I'm insincere if I say they're "awesome" just because I happen to know of a person who is "more awesome". Kind of the entire point is that, once I've developed a friendship with, say, "Kiera", I'm not going to end that friendship just because Better Kiera (who is better than Kiera in every measurable way) shows up one day. I also will not have spent a whole lot of time (or really any time) looking for Better Kiera before deciding to be friends with Kiera. I think most people are similar....

Re: Japanese, I badly wish I could learn to speak it at three-year-old level, partly because I consider it part of my heritage and so forth... but after three years of study in high school and a college class I had to retake, I can barely read the basic phonetic kana. So...yeah, you're doing better than at least one supposedly "smart"* middle-class college-educated person. I'd also note that most of the white middle-class college crowd are "bilingual" in the sense that they speak a little Spanish or a little French, and they're right to consider that a bottom-tier achievement because those languages are pretty close to English in both vocabulary and grammatical construction and supposedly pretty easy for English speakers to learn. Recognizing kanji when you're used to purely phonetic alphabets, and the English conventions for punctuation and spacing, is a fairly unique challenge.

*Lots of people seem to think I'm smart, or assume I'm calling myself smart, when they ask about my education and I state that I double-majored Maths and Computer Science (both coded "smart"; also coded "Asian"). But there are plenty of things I want to be good at and wouldn't be able to figure out if a person's life was at stake. So....
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:47 pm

The way I navigate that situation is not to make good-bad judgments, but rather to describe my abilities more neutrally.

"I speak Hebrew - well, actually, what I speak is Biblical Hebrew, which is pretty funny when you're trying to buy groceries. I can understand modern Hebrew pretty well since they're very similar, but I have a hearing problem which makes it tough for me if the other person is talking fast. Recently I've been watching Israeli TV shows subtitled in English, though, which is helping me both with the comprehension issue and with getting up to speed with useful words like 'electricity.'"

What that description does is leave the good / bad judgment call in the hands of the other person. To my friend who speaks eleven languages fluently and picks them up within two months, I'm probably pretty bad at Hebrew. To my husband, who still struggles with simple vocabulary, I'm impossibly good. So I let that be their way of seeing me, instead of insisting that there is some kind of objective truth to how they can and should judge.
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Post by LadyLuck on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:47 pm

reboundstudent wrote:and chances are, you want friends who are objectively and uniquely awesome

I can tell you definitely value things that are "objectively special" based on our previous conversations. Given that we tend to get along with people who share values, its very likely that your friends share this value. So what you say is probably 100% true for yourself, and people you surround yourself with. But I don't think it's true for 100% of the human population everywhere. I think it's important to realize that being in this environment, with this assumption, is something that you have chosen. It not some immutable unchangeable fact of the world everywhere that you have to accept without question.

Anecdotally, I've noticed a far higher value on people who can do something for you - make you feel good, entertain you with interesting conversation, do small favors, etc. I suppose in a way, the "objectively special" bit IS doing something for you - its feels cool to be able to say "I know the only person who can do X!", and said people often are able to do things for you that other people can't. I suppose if you specifically value people being able to do these things for you, it makes a lot of sense to value "objective specialness" more. But the point still stands, plenty (I'd even say most) people have friends that are not objectively special in any particular way. It clearly isn't a requirement to have some friends, though I can't guarantee the people willing to befriend not-objectively-special-you are people you'd want to be friends with yourself.

EDIT: Also +INFINITE to what Kleenestar said. I was kind of thinking of something similar, but didn't post because I hadn't thought of quite the right way to say it.

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Post by Robjection on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:56 pm

Isn't there a saying that goes something like "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"? Some of the more recent posts in this thread brought that saying to mind.

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:09 pm

Robjection wrote:Isn't there a saying that goes something like "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"? Some of the more recent posts in this thread brought that saying to mind.

Yeeeah, that's true, but the scenario I'm laying out is when you're the one-eyed man in a land of people with three eyes, and the three eyes people keep scoffing about how negative you are because you only have one eye, even though the number of eyes determines social value...

LadyLuck wrote:
But the point still stands, plenty (I'd even say most) people have friends that are not objectively special in any particular way. It clearly isn't a requirement to have some friends, though I can't guarantee the people willing to befriend not-objectively-special-you are people you'd want to be friends with yourself.

But then.... why are you friends with them? If they are not objectively unique and awesome, why are you choosing Person A over Person B? Is it just because Person A happened to be there?

I will say it's not a requirement, but here's the thing... my friends kind of don't like being my friends. They're my friends because I'm there, not because they genuinely like me. So, yeah, I get friendships, but they aren't fulfilling or even that meaningful. If I disappeared tomorrow, they literally wouldn't notice; I'm very easy to replace. Whereas if you're friends with someone you view as unique and special, you want to remain friends with them, because they're unique, they're special, they'd be difficult to replace.
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Post by Guest on Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:20 pm

reboundstudent wrote:I will say it's not a requirement, but here's the thing... my friends kind of don't like being my friends. They're my friends because I'm there, not because they genuinely like me. So, yeah, I get friendships, but they aren't fulfilling or even that meaningful. If I disappeared tomorrow, they literally wouldn't notice; I'm very easy to replace. Whereas if you're friends with someone you view as unique and special, you want to remain friends with them, because they're unique, they're special, they'd be difficult to replace.  

Okay, so I don't want to fall into the trap of doing exactly what it says in the thread header, and I obviously don't know your friends, but...

I have had friends say this about themselves, and it hurt me IMMENSELY.

Because I valued them as a friend. Because I liked the way they could quote some movie with me, or the fact that they were always the one to stay and help clean up after a party, or the fact that they were as excited as I was about new Tamora Pierce novels, or I could geek out about audiobooks with them, or they were my bonding buddy over issues with the special ed department with our kids' schools.

And what they were saying to me was, "I don't think this friendship is actually worth anything. I wish it was, but it's not." And it felt like a horrifying, ugly judgment against not just them, but ME: that I was shallow, or looking to trade up, or fake, or not very emotionally deep. I didn't want a different friend. I wanted THEM. People aren't an objective score based on adding up their skills and traits. Friendship is about fit and feel, and all kinds of intangible things contribute. They were my friends because they made me happy.

And I think that's why this conversation is so hard for me (and probably others): I can see my friend in your place, talking about how she sucks and people are only friends with her because she's there. And I will say... in every one of those cases, it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophesy, because every time they would say things like this, it got harder and harder to be with them, until I just... didn't. And it's not because I was trading up. It's because they were hurting me. And it hurt me to cut them out of my life, too, and it STILL hurts me. I have friends I haven't spoken to in 8 years, and this conversation is still calling up Feelings about them, because I mourn what we had. And I suspect when they think about me, they assume I literally didn't notice, and that they were easy to replace. :-/

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:26 pm

reboundstudent wrote:But then.... why are you friends with them? If they are not objectively unique and awesome, why are you choosing Person A over Person B? Is it just because Person A happened to be there?

Well.....yeah. Is that bad?

reboundstudent wrote:I will say it's not a requirement, but here's the thing... my friends kind of don't like being my friends. They're my friends because I'm there, not because they genuinely like me. So, yeah, I get friendships, but they aren't fulfilling or even that meaningful. If I disappeared tomorrow, they literally wouldn't notice; I'm very easy to replace. Whereas if you're friends with someone you view as unique and special, you want to remain friends with them, because they're unique, they're special, they'd be difficult to replace.

Well, that's where the self-deprecation might be hurting you a bit; if you're going so far out of your way to lower everyone's expectations of you and insist that you don't have anything to offer them because some person they aren't friends with can do a certain thing better than you, it's not that surprising that they'll eventually just agree that it'll be...not easier, but less difficult/draining, to replace you with Better Reboundstudent, even though they don't know Better Reboundstudent as well and Better Reboundstudent doesn't have much of a reason to want to spend a lot of time with them at first and Better Reboundstudent already knows loads of people who are better than versions of Reboundstudent's friends.... wait, how are they actually going to replace you with Better Reboundstudent?

Here's a cheesy anime explaining more or less the same thing. Wink


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