Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Otter was right

In that last post (which became a bit disjointed), I spent a fair amount of time detailing my own experience and perspective in a couple situations which sounded an awful lot like I was tooting my own horn, as it were. As anyone who knows me will tell you, that's not something I'm especially prone to do. As confident as I am in my own abilities, an earlier post here will give you the general conception of how well I think I've been employing them over these 40 years.

I don't even like it when other people try to compliment me or what I've done. It makes me anywhere from cynical to horribly uncomfortable when people do so. So, in that respect, my presentation of those two scenarios was not so much to remonstrate about how I could do something and others could not, but more to elaborate upon how I feel like everyone should be able to do these things.

Contrarily, of course, I get extremely defensive whenever anyone tries to disparage or dismiss things that I've done or contributed to, as well. I spent almost 5 years chairing the Green Party of Michigan and I thought that we accomplished some solid things while I was there. My ex-wife was with me that whole time and, while I came away frustrated that we couldn't do more and pointedly critical of certain people and tendencies within the state and national parties, she later rather vocally dismissed that entire period as somewhere between a complete waste of time and an utter disaster whenever anyone mentioned it.

That, of course, would almost instantly raise my hackles. I was fairly proud of the fact that we were able to get the Greens mentioned in the same breath with the Dems and the GOP for a couple years. I was proud of the fact that I was able to be on radio or TV or in print every few days, spreading the message and getting enthusiastic feedback from people that didn't know that there was a like-minded group out there looking for their votes. I even mentioned this as my "proudest professional moment" on the board the other day and was almost immediately heckled with: "Do you mean [breath] The GOP candidate would like to thank the Green candidate for helping him defeat the Democrat?[/breath]" If you're stupid enough to believe that, run better candidates whom I and people like me would actually like to vote for, schmucks.

But every time someone would react to my experience with some degree of approbation or awe, I'd immediately backpedal; waving it off as "nothing special." It took my friend, Rodger, a couple years after I was out of the party, to finally get me to accept it somewhat. We were at dinner with many students from our dojo and he mentioned that I had chaired the party for a while and two people were expressing how great that was and I was giving my usual "sounds better than it was" response before Rodger finally interrupted me and said: "It is pretty cool, you know?" Yeah. I guess it was. For a while.

But, of course, I didn't do it alone. There were many people involved to get us even the modest achievements that we accomplished. What ties this thought to my previous post is that, again, I often feel that there's almost nothing that I can do that other people can't also do, provided that they're willing to put their minds to it. The challenge is to get them to do so (or open their minds in the first place and then do so.) Granted, this is akin to my usual assertion that if everyone would just shut up and listen to me, the world would be a much better place. But this time it's true.

I guess the one thing that I'd suggest is that the next time anyone has the opportunity to listen to actually do so. Don't think about what your next response will be. Don't even think about making a response. Just listen. It can be frustrating as hell and I'm certainly not a universal practitioner (especially when it's a discussion I've had a few hundred times...) but every once in a while you learn about the roots of someone else's thought process or you find something completely new. After that, you can proceed to blow holes in their logic and try to convert them to your way of thinking.

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