Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Know what You Mean to other People

Relationships are seldom, if ever, mutual. And hard as it is to accept this reality, it all starts with what you are to other people. What you think you are to others, and what they know you are to them, are two different things.

More than a decade ago when I was in college, I made a rare, albeit serious attempt at dating. CM was her name, and this was a relationship I hoped would be enduring, even lifelong... sorry, I digress.

During one of our numerous conversations, and in a moment I consider among the most profound in my dealings with CM, she looked at me straight in the eyes and asked, "Peter, what am I to you?"

Luckily, this was not during a 'fight'. But I did not answer immediately, given my penchant for reading between the lines. It took a moment to digest the all-important question.

I then gave her my candid answer.
(Sorry, you ain't CM and my answer is beyond the scope of this post... hehe).

Looking back, I now realize that is the one question I always ask myself in all my dealings with other people. And it has saved me from a lot of trouble.
Be it professional or informal relationships, taking time to actually find out what my place is in the hearts and minds of whoever I am interacting with is a priceless realization.

Why do we love oranges?

I still recall the day when Pinky Ghelani challenged her listeners to reflect why we love oranges. That was many years ago on her show 'The Fuse' on 98.4 Capital FM.

Pinky then proceeded to explain that almost every person who loves an orange does so because of what one can get from it. Specifically, the nutrients and the taste. It has nothing to do with how colorful oranges look, or how perfectly round they may be.

And this reminds me of Jesus's 'barren tree' parable in Luke 13:6-9.

Is the Juice worth the Squeeze?

It seems I'm on a roll with these fruity metaphors. But not to worry.

For interactions that are one-sided, where genuine affection is unrequited, good people have every reason to walk away. Letting go and moving on is in fact the most apt thing to do, only that it should not happen sans reflection. This ensures that there is no haste, and enough time is first spent appreciating all that has been and learning from whatever failed to work well or as expected.

A fearless and searching moral inventory is therefore recommended every once in a while, to forestall the risk of being used by others, or passing across the wrong message. A common problem that faces exceedingly good people is their good deeds being misconstrued as being desperate, clingy or needy. And of course being taken for granted, only to be missed when the well runs dry.

Every time you feel like you're in a situation where the other party is not living up to what is expected of them - be it a friend, love interest, business partner, client, colleague at work or school, etc - be courageous enough to do an objective and candid cost-benefit analysis with a view to setting things right.

I must admit that I do walk away from people the moment I realize what they take me to be is something that adds no value, is inappropriate or at great cost to me and my person.

For the record, a cost-benefit analysis is not a walk in the park, especially in situations where one has invested emotionally. But it is always worth it.

I end this post with something I once heard on 103.9 Family FM a long time ago. It is about what an ordinary man is to those around him.

To his dog, he is like a god, and the provider of all things nice (read meat, bones and macaroni). To his wife, he is Mr Money. To his teenage daughter, he is an overbearing tyrant who just can't let her be. To his boss, he is a good employee, but one who can be better. To his MP, he is just another vote.

You get the drift...

Finally, the key question is, what exactly are you to those around you and those whose lives you touch? And more important, are you to them what you think you are?

* * *

It does take two to tango. And I bet giving as good as one gets is for the most part, a core component of mutual interaction.
That said, how about meeting halfway?


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