The question du jour is, “Which one ‘weighs’ more?”
Some would say words and personality are not concrete things, while interactions and actions are, and can thus be judged.
But people are whimsical. They frequently enjoy doing things without thought, and some of these things are one-shot deals. So how much can one [validly] judge these?
Then there’s the question of how “concrete” actions are. So someone blows up at you. Or, to take a better and more relevant example, say someone perpetually asks “why?” The question itself (“why?”) is going to be applied liberally in almost every conversation. But so is the reasoning behind the question and the chain of thought processes the follows the response. But which is more “concrete”? You can touch neither an action or a thought. Is an action more concrete in that others feel the effects of it? But can’t the same be said for thoughts?
I’ve always been very careful to “watch” my thoughts, because I know body language and actions and words that may reveal them may follow. Sometimes this is nothing more than being aware of what it is I may reveal, sometimes to the point of unpleasant honesty. Sometimes this means I restructure things a bit in my head to dampen a thought or emotion (die, you dirty filthy useless crushes!). But I am aware of my own level of impulsiveness in conversation and the fact that I leave very little of my life private. And because I am usually more accepting of my openness than of my few attempts to be ashamed of my past or mysterious or secretive, things that would lead me to feel a need to be secretive need to be analyzed and gotten over, however I must do that.
If one takes actions and interactions as the only clues into understanding a person with no attempt to delve further (or assumes that these are all there is that is important to know), aren’t there a lot of nuances missed? Think of the command of body language knowledge and tone of voice understanding that has to exist in the watcher to be able to get even a fraction of the same information of someone who has rudimentary knowledge of the aforementioned and simply asks about what’s below the surface.
Not that asking doesn’t bring its own share of problems. The person you’re talking to has to be pretty damned comfortable with you to not immediately blow you off. Then there’s the “filter” problem in that they are suddenly thinking about what they’re saying, and changing it as they go. And then there’s the fact that some thoughts cannot be adequately expressed in words; one could argue that the entirety of a thought could never be fully expressed in words.
And even just being a watcher shares problems with the more active approach. People like me are usually very aware of when they’re being scrutinized, so the age-old dilemma of changing what one is observing comes to the fore. If people are uncomfortable with that level of attentiveness, they are going to clam up in body language or speech, or alter things to make themselves seem much more pleasant to themselves or to the person to whom they are speaking, depending on a variety of factors.
If one doesn’t care about the nuances, then the entire debate is over, because delving further is more work than is necessary to ensure moderately smooth interactions.
I happen to be a fan of examining some things as deeply as I can, even if it’s just for the fun of examining. Because, really, in any kind of long run, it doesn’t matter other than in assauging my curiosity and increasing my awareness; what I’ve spent my time dissecting will evolve into something else, maybe different, maybe the same or similar. This doesn’t make me less curious, or less frustrated when blocked, but I am aware of the ephemeral nature of the knowledge at which I’m grasping.
It seems to me that if you attempt to get a feel for someone’s personality and their motives, that’s a wave you can ride through the evolution of that person ad infinitum, barring major conflicts. It’s something that provides a “stable” core that underlies the occassionally choppy waves of interactions and puts those “waves” in perspective.
See, now I’m having trouble translating concepts to words. Think surfing and two centers of gravity (you and something below the surface of the water) and occassionally stormy weather.
But I can think of
one two non-familial instances where that knowledge of personality became crucial for me deciding my level of attachment. Ninth and tenth grade, I spent significant hours of my life attempting to delve into M.K.’s head. Peeling away layers and layers of bravado and insecurities and facades while he just chattered on aimlessly about girls and drinking and parties and how he was going to be an engineer (although of what type, he couldn’t tell me). Like an onion. There came a point during tenth grade when even I had exhausted my ability and energy to dig. At the risk of sounding flippant or shallow, I found nothing. That onion had a hollow core, as far as I could tell. It could very well be that there was simply nothing there to hold my interest, but it felt like I was looking into a void after digging through so much shit. For all my [notorious] intensity and tenacity, even I know when and how to cut my losses.
The second involves me swimming through what I perceive[d] as a lot of manipulative bullshit last school year until I could finally, just this summer, get on the damn “surfboard” to see if I can hold my balance. (I like the surfing analogy, even though I’ve never actually been surfing.) And now I would like to introduce Luke. Wave and say “hello”, Luke.
I’m leaving off a discussion of words, other than to say that they only weigh in with me in that they can provide indicators as to what’s below the surface. Aside from what the meaning of the words is literally, how and why they’re formed is interesting and revealing. If I can find someone to answer my incessant questions, I usually want to ask why they’ve answered them. Because many people won’t. I’m fairly convinced at this point that I’ve scared away the Cool CS Guy because he had the bad luck to run into me as I was heading into this inquisitive phase.
I like to watch people struggle to reshape thoughts into words. I don’t like thoughtless, flippant answers, even if in the end they turn out to be just as “correct” or true as a more thought out answer. Unless I get the feeling that the person I’m talking to has already thought about the issue at hand in depth, I want to see that struggle. It gives me the feeling that they acknowledge my interest and are ready and willing to entertain it with at least some attempt at seriousness. This becomes crucial when I’m dealing with people that aren’t as curious as I am and don’t ask questions back. How the hell else am I supposed to measure reciprocal interest? Flippant answers shows mere tolerance rather than interest in my level of discussion, and too much of this is incredibly frustrating.
I realized yesterday that this was what made my day with Jenny so fucking wonderful. After I asked why, she asked why. She cried and struggled to answer as best she could. I didn’t cry, but I struggled to answer as best I could, even when I didn’t like the answers (or rather, the thoughts/feelings behind them). Reciprocal interest.
So do interactions weigh more than personality and words? They can. Some interactions are strong enough to knock me off my little surfboard, and this is how I fall out with people. Sometimes I just can’t keep my balance in a relationship, meaning that the interactions are weighing more than either my personality or the other’s. But given time and sufficient interest, I can get things in sync and in balance enough so that even fairly choppy day to day interactions don’t tire me out or frustrate me overly.
[Updated to fix some basic grammar/spelling mistakes.]