Otherness

Feb 17, 2009

I’m giving you homework today.

But before I do, there’s a story.

For the sake of anonymity, let’s call a friend of mine Mary.

Nice person. Good at what she does. We’ve done the small talk thing as well as shared a handful of deeper dialogues. She’s free with the details of her life, family, pursuits, perspectives. I value her transparency and have come to know her fairly well based on her openness and trust in me. I appreciate Mary’s ideas and input on multiple subjects, really I do. But I can’t get over this one teensy-weensy fact:

She doesn’t know the first thing about me. Nor does she care to.

How’s that possible after sharing a chunk of life? Sure, we don’t spend tons of time together, but we’ve spent enough. I asked her one very accessible question about myself, kind of testing the vulnerability waters: “Did you know that I…?” In response I received a blank stare and shake of the head. “No, I didn’t know that.” No follow up questions, no spark of interest. With her simple answer, the topic was dropped. End of story.

Okay, that hurt a wee bit. But I’ve been around long enough to know Mary likely doesn’t have a clue she comes off preoccupied. And it probably won’t change. For as many times as I’ve asked her questions, she seldom returns the favor. If I want to be friends with Mary, that’s just the way it is. At least until she starts to be intentional about caring for others more than herself.

Before you think I’m going all preachy on you, let me be straight: I get like that sometimes. A LOT of times. Self-consumed and oblivious about it. Best remedy? Intentionally engage in one conversation today where you don’t talk a lick about yourself. Nada. Nothing. Avoid interjecting your experiences and perspectives. Instead, redirect all attention toward the person standing in front of you. Ask questions. Listen. Be sincere.

And remove yourself from the center of the universe.

It’s tougher than you think. Give it your best, and then let me know how it goes. I want to know.


5 Comments

  1. alece

    i’ve had far too many marys in my life. i fear that i’ve become more like that in recent months, and i hate that.

    Reply
  2. Sue

    Thank you for talking about this. It’s much more common than most people are willing to admit. It’s a challenge for all of us to solve.

    Reply
  3. Michele

    A, you have a beautiful heart. I doubt your friends think of you as a Mary for even a second. 🙂

    S, yes, it is a challenge for all of us. Probably me most of all! I can be so darn selfish sometimes! Thanks for sharing, Sue. Appreciate you!

    Reply
  4. heidi

    This is a hard exercise why? because I am a natural fixer, I want to fix everything and I want my input in.

    I need to stop and listen

    Reply
  5. Michele

    Excellent point. And I so relate. Perhaps I ought to invest in a heavy duty stapler to keep my yapper shut. Really. Probably the only way to get me to stop talking and start listening. 🙂

    Reply

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