Thoughts of a geek

17 July 2012

Narcissism or self improvement

Filed under: Me — Tags: , — qwandor @ 8:31 am

During my recent visit to New York, a couple of good friends gave me some advice on things I should work on to improve how I relate to other people, and particularly how I communicate. The 5 main points (I think), were that I should:

  1. Stop and think before saying things, particularly with regard to how direct I am. I tend to be quite direct and straightforward in what I say, and I think that this is mostly a good thing, but sometimes I can be perceived as overly confrontational, which can be unhelpful as it makes some other people (perhaps especially those I do not know so well) defensive and so hinders communication. So I guess I need to think more about politeness, while still trying to be clear. This has been pointed out to me before in a work context too, so I think it is definitely something I need to work on.
  2. Think how others will react to and feel about what I say and do. This is related to the first point, but a bit broader. This seems fairly obvious and something I already knew, but it is good to have a reminder. Part of the difficulty here is how to build an accurate mental model of how other people think, which I do not think I am very good at.
  3. Acknowledge good things (and do so first). In written discussion in particular, I often tend to ignore the parts of a comment or argument that I agree with (hey, I agree with them, so I do not have anything to say about them) or otherwise have no opinion about, and just jump straight to the bits I disagree with or want to dig further on. This is how I expect people to respond to me, and it seems inefficient to discuss some point about which I do not have anything more to contribute to the conversation, but as was recently pointed out to me on this very blog (thanks Daniel!) this puts some people off further conversation. My intent in arguing is the opposite, so this is problematic. I think the issue may be that some people assume that silence means disagreement, whereas I assume it means agreement? Anyway, apparently the solution is to start be acknowledging the parts I agree with, and I guess to thank people where appropriate. This comes back to the first point a bit again, sacrificing efficiency for politeness. This seems like a fairly straightforward solution, but getting into the habit of actually remembering to apply it is likely to take a while. If you notice me not doing this, please remind me!
  4. Accept compliments before arguing. Apparently I am bad at accepting compliments and tend to argue with them. I had not particularly noticed this myself, so will have to try to pay more attention in future. If you notice this please point it out to me.
  5. Read a book about reading people. I am not quite sure what was in mind here, and am not entirely convinced that this sort of thing can be taught well by a book. But if you have any recommendations let me know.

Do any of you who know me have any other advice to add to this list? Or have you had any useful feedback about yourself? How have you applied it? How possible is it to change how you communicate and relate to other people?

I thought a bit myself as well, and a couple of observations of myself were:

  • I used to be much better at concentrating, less distractable. Unfortunately as I have got older my ability to concentrate on a single complex task, particularly to just sit think about something, think through how to solve a problem in my head, seems to have decreased. This is unfortunate.
  • On the topic of relating to other people, I tend to assume (at least subconsciously) that people are / work like me; the problem is that they are not. As I am learning, many of them work and think in completely different ways. Relationships may be much less symmetric than I tend to assume; the other person does not necessarily feel the same way about me as I do about them, nor even about the relationship itself. This makes it difficult to model how they will react (as required for point 2 above), and generally to understand them and the motivations behind their actions.

30 June 2012

Flirting? Or really, relationships and stuff.

Filed under: Christianity, The Blog Roll — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:56 am

Continuing on with this group-blogging thing, people are writing about flirting. This is an interesting topic, and not one I know a whole lot about. The discussion started with reading this article, which some of us found helpful and interesting (at least in parts), and some had a strong negative reaction to.

A related topic which I think is also interesting to discuss is the issue of why people date (or court, or whatever you want to call it. Pursue relationships with the opposite sex of a romantic nature. Or with the same sex for that matter I guess.) What are people’s intentions in pursuing such relationships? What do they expect of the other party? How do they convey those intentions, and how are they interpreted and understood (or often, misinterpreted and misunderstood)? What happens when the intentions and expectations do not match? Do the intentions and expectations of one party bias how they interpret the actions of the other?

Coincidentally I have ended up having some interesting conversations about some of these issues with a number of intelligent, thoughtful and insightful friends lately, which have been enlightening and thought-provoking. For a start, I have been reminded how different different people’s intentions can be. I guess everyone has a complex mix of motivations and intentions, and these can change as they grow older and mature. Even over the course of a particular relationship these change, which introduces further complications.

One motivation, obviously, is sex. Stereotypically this tends to be a stronger motivation for guys than for girls, and I expect that this has some bearing on reality — though no doubt the stereotype is also biased by social expectations, where sexual desire is associated with promiscuity, and promiscuity is more socially acceptable among males than among females. (As a side note, I do not think that it is wise for either. But that is not the main point here.) One friend related her frustrations at a number of guys she dated, while being interesting and good guys, being significantly motivated by sex, while she just was not after that, and had quite different things she wanted to get out of a relationship.

Some people are looking for a life partner. They see dating primarily as a stage along the way to marriage. Quite a few of my friends are Christians (as am I), and many of them (though not all) fall into this category. Plenty of other people do as well, of course. Some would go so far as to say that you should never date someone unless you intend to seriously consider marrying them, and furthermore that a high degree of emotional and physical distance should be maintained, that degree of intimacy and attachement being reserved solely for marriage. Another friend recently posted this article from an American conservative Christian website for young people espousing such a view. Well, perhaps I exaggerate a little. A number of my friends hold to this sort of view. I am not sure how wise or practical it is, and I do not think the majority would hold to that extreme.

Some people see dating, or romantic relationships in general, as an opportunity to experiment, learn more about people, and have fun, without ever intending for it to be a long-term thing. They are happy to date someone for a time while knowing and intending from the start that it will not last, and to break it off when the time comes. I was reminded of this by a couple of different friends recently, and while I struggle to understand their position it does not seem uncommon in the wider world either.

Some people want fun and excitement. They are after new experiences, surprises, someone to laugh with, to inspire them, to show them things they had not thought of before.

Some people want someone to care for them, somebody they can talk to about anything and everything. To check up on them, support them when times are tough, and just be there for each other.

Most people, of course, are after all of these things, and many others, in some complex and changing mix. They are by no means exclusive categories, or even all the same sort of category, but rather some of the many different motivations and intentions that people may have. Perhaps you can think of more to add to the list, so by all means post them below.

Problems, misunderstandings and hurt often happens when people go into a relationship with different intentions and expectations. Properly communicating and interpreting them is a difficult problem.

Well, I have just written quite a lot about a topic I have very little experience in! To continue with that, but perhaps add in a little bit of personal experience, we come back to the actual topic of flirting.

Flirting seems to mean many different things to different people, so we have a problem not just of actual actions but of terminology. Some other people blogging about it in this group have described it as being “pleasant and interested”, some as “appearing interested, appearing interesting, being aware of the other’s [dis]interest”. Some think of it as more of a sort of teasing interaction, hinting at interest but then backing away coyly waiting for a reaction, alternating between pursuing and being pursued. Perhaps this is more the feminine side of it, I daresay it tends not to work symmetrically between both sides. Coquettish is another word that comes to mind for this idea of it. The guide which started this whole discussion distinguishes between “flirting for fun” and “flirting with intent”, which I think is a useful distinction to make.

Frith makes the good point that it is often hard to separate “flirting” from “everyday affectionate interaction”, and I quite agree. Another friend to whom I was talking recently described similar issues, where what she considered just ordinary physical affection between friends was sometimes mistaken as an indication of a romantic interest or attraction that was not there. Such misunderstandings are by no means terrible things, but can still be less than ideal. Said friend does tend to be a fairly physical sort of a person (which is a great thing, she gives excellent hugs), but sometimes this can be misinterpreted. Things like dancing, especially styles with close connection like blues, can further blur the lines here. This same friend described it as (sometimes) being “5 minutes of true love then you each go your separate ways”, which I thought it an interesting description (though I probably misquoted it a little). Not to be confused with 2 minutes in heaven. Flight of the Conchords may not be the best source of relationship advice. Though actually, they are probably not much worse than many other sources… but I digress.

A question for the reader here: do you think men or women are in general better at distinguishing friendly physical affection from flirting? Is there a difference?

So perhaps the bigger question is: how does one know whether somebody else is flirting with them? Or more generally, is ‘interested’ in them? Perhaps flirting is being more friendly towards one person in particular than towards other people in general. But in the case of people one does not know very well, how can one find that baseline to compare to? Careful observation seems necessary here. I have been learning lately that I am not as good an observer of people as I used to think I was. Some people are excellent at it though! It certainly seems like a very useful skill to have. And how can one avoid being misinterpreted, if that is an issue?

Oh, I had a random thought in the middle of the night last night: perhaps the imperfect communication is a little like playing 500, where an important part of the game is to find ways to communicate to your partner what you have in your hand and how you intend to play without actually saying anything? You need to work together to give hints to each other, interpret them correctly, and then use that information to win tricks and score more points than the other team… okay, perhaps this analogy does not go quite so far. (Hey, anyone up for a game of 500?)

At this point I would insert a list of examples and ask for you readers’ opinions on which ones were and were not flirting, but I think that might not be wise in a public forum such as this, so will leave that out from here.

To ramble a little more, I wonder also whether we could talk about such a think as ‘anti-flirting’: things people do to indicate to someone else that they are not interested in them in a romantic way, or things which they may inadvertently do which may be interpreted as such. This could include, for example, being careful to keep plenty of physical distance, telling someone that they smell bad, are badly dressed, are not very good looking, or other such things. What examples do you have, of such anti-flirting signals that you have either given or received?

Well that post grew and changed rather a lot from what it was originally going to be. (It is also not very well organised or edited, sorry.) This was partly due to a number of interesting discussion with a few friends recently, which got me thinking more along some new lines. Thanks, people! And let’s continue this discussion, here and elsewhere. It is both interesting in general, and relevant to my interests.

I guess I should finish with a list of other people’s posts on the topic:

I also had another post related to this topic that I started writing back on 10th June, but I will leave that for another post I think, as I had more ideas last night to add to it. In the meantime, comment away!

28 May 2009

Swing swing

Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 11:30 pm

Swing swing.
Swing, swing.
It is cloudy tonight, though there are some bare patches. Stars visible briefly. The clouds move quite rapidly. I can see the Southern Cross. Now I cannot. The breeze gets up a bit.
10:14 pm now. Early, comparatively. I wonder whether I will sleep tonight.
I can hear something breathing heavily. Irregularly. Some animal I guess, but I cannot see it. Looking around for it, listening carefully. Unnerving.
Back to the swing. Music back on.

Time to stop swinging. Need some certainty in life. On whom to rely, to depend?
Here I sit. Not in the hall of the mountain king. Ouch, too loud suddenly.

The breathing seems to have stopped. Odd.
Perhaps no human will keep eir word. God does, apparently. Not quite sure what to make of it though.
God should be all I need, apparently. But human relationships would be nice too. Should be nice. Some sort of connection? I am not sure how to find it, or make it. Things seem not to work out. What does that mean? Why?
Always why. And how.
Ha, and when.

Just walking now. Downhill. Perhaps I will run later.

I really must get some decent headphones.
What would it be like to be able to control my mind more? Less wandering?More productive? More focussed, less distractable, pointlessly and uselessly sidetracked? What is important in life? What can I do? What can I even hope to do, to achieve?
Keep walking.
Cannot stop, cannot stand still, going nowhere.

Ran. Just a little.

1 May 2009


Filed under: Me — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 9:58 pm

So there is (or was, I have missed it because I am too slow at writing) a meme going around Facebook called ’25 things’, where people write 25 things about themselves in a note, and then abuse the tagging system to tag 25 friends who are then supposed to do the same thing. Some people’s things were inane, some interesting, and some quite revealing. Anyway, I am following suit, in case anybody cares to read. Except, I am not writing 25 things, because there seems no good reason for such arbitrary targets.

Comments are welcome of course (appreciated, even). Though maybe it is best to comment in person.

The following things have been written over a period of a few months (I started writing this in January 2009), so my apologies that it is a bit disjointed, and that some points overlap others. My moods have varied a bit over that time too, as happens. Anyway, the things written below were how I thought or felt at some point in the past, and may or may not still be true.

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