Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Lose Friends And Alienate People

Did I mention I'm smarter and better than you?
Here child, let me list the ways.

Dale Carnegie first wrote the currently 15 million copied bestseller, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" way back in 1936. Think about that for a second! That was well over a century ago, if you're terrible at math, and yet it is still one of the best selling books in the world today.

It remains very popular and is supposedly effective. I don't know. I might even read it someday. I understand that it encourages respecting people, listening more than just talking and other weird stuff.

Since I thought I was clever at making up the anti-title of, "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People", I was seriously annoyed to learn that someone already wrote a parody of Carnegie's book with my exact awesome title, literally just one year later in 1937. I didn't realize they even had smartasses back then. Cool!

Gradually I have come to realize that for the most part there are only two different types of people in the world, especially when it comes to their opinions, convictions and comments.

Those who belong to the 1st type seem the most populous. Or maybe just pompous. ("Pompulous"?)

Sometimes these self made philosophers, political and legal experts are “right” and sometimes they are “wrong”. But this really is not pertinent. "Right" and "wrong" are silly and irrelevant concepts for them. This is because they also are perpetually one dimensional. Their dimension. You are invited to visit, but you may not stay.

You may have seen or heard one or two of them. Trust me, they are not hiding. Some of them even have their own radio and TV shows, God help us all.

You see, they rarely persuade even a single soul or change a solitary mind, but no worry... that’s perfectly OK with them. They honestly have no intention or desire anyway to do so.

Sadly for us, they and their opinions were once, in the not too distant past, wonderfully confined to yelling at squirrels in their back yards or schooling that ignorant sheep of a cashier at the local Safeway. But the Internet has miraculously changed all that. (Thanks a lot, Al Gore, you jerk.)

In a new age where every person's opinion not only "matters", but can even be equally inane and still be shouted at fullest volume, their computer chair is so much higher than any soapbox of old and now they can abuse thousands at once, even on coffee breaks.

If you have spent even a little time on message boards trying to discuss politics or religion with strangers, you discover the anonymity of the Internet makes it much more appealing to roughly 90% of people to tell you that you are a stupid moron, rather than to engage or address your ideas. And these people vote.

Oh my god... these people vote. OK, let's try not to think about that.

These self made web gods sadly prove that the cheesy TV commercials about students happily interacting with other kids from the other side of the world on their huge classroom monitor are absurd. If adults can't act like adults on the Internet, who do they think they're fooling with this "it's a small world after all" crap?

If you've never spent time discussing religion or politics on the Internet with those of differing opinions, I encourage you to take at least a few hours to do it. You will walk away with a much greater understanding of human nature and the added benefit of probably never wanting to do it again.

I mean, think about it, why spend a lifetime influencing, informing or winning over anybody, when you can so, so much more easily just criticize, demean or "beat" them in an argument with a one line put down? For this 1st type of “communicator”, this is a no-brainer. Pardon the tautology.

But finally and gratefully we have those others in the 2nd group, this albeit frighteningly small and odd minority. Many of them do not have TV shows, but that is OK. They have friends who actually like them.

These rare 2nd type individuals, regardless of their loving, hating or maybe even only weakly and half-heartily agreeing with some of the other countless differing, interesting opinions and thoughts out there in the world, can still somehow occasionally opine with purpose.

In a rare instance, their words can even be ones that are actually adding to a constructive and evolving dialogue, informing and expanding the understanding of others or truly just interacting with them on a meaningful or at least harmonious level, however small or large that may prove to be.

Thank God for this 2nd group.

In closing, a very wise and beloved man once said something like (I am paraphrasing): "treat others the way you wish they would treat you".

Do you want people to listen to you? I wonder if people also want you to listen to them? Hmm. Weird, I know, but maybe worth looking into.

Unfortunately for most of us, this remains terribly counter intuitive advice. Both my flawed logic and nature dictate that I should rather, "demand others treat me the way I expect to be treated, and I'll treat others however I think they have it coming".

This selfish method works very poorly, of course, but is probably not going to be abandoned any time soon.

So, to those rare, 2nd type individuals, I just want to say that I know you are out there and would like to thank you for making the world a vastly more interesting and valuable place. Someone has to do it and I'm trying to be more like you.

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