Show of Hands


Truth is not determined by a show of hands—or is it?

The other day, I left a comment on some organization’s Facebook post. So far, my comment has received 86 Likes, one person replied “hilarious,” one replied “LOL,” one replied “hahaha,” one replied “very funny,” one replied “I assure you—you are NOT funny,” and one replied “you’re a jerk.”

So what am I really?

Irrespective thereof, judging from personal experience, it always tends to be the one that thinks I’m a jerk that ultimately gets me fired, banned from a particular forum, or otherwise in trouble.

Bill Cosby once said he didn’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure was trying to please everybody.

Probably true.

Still, I perpetually struggle with striking the proper balance between pleasing others and pissing them off.

In a given situation, how am I to tell whether boldness, silence, or measured diplomacy might be in order? Not necessarily in terms of resolving the immediate situation at hand, but in terms of exercising the very muscles necessary for attaining my desired outcomes in the long term.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding—am I a successful person?

Far from it.

So I’m thinking the problem, or part of the problem, may be that I strive to “be myself” either (a) too much or (b) not enough.

Given that insanity is defined as doing the same over and over and expecting … blah-blah-blah, we all know the sagacious quotation … it stands to reason that I ought to adjust my ways toward either the more accommodating or the (even) more obnoxious, depending on which of the two I’ve been overdoing up until now.

Requesting feedback from others on this score, alas, seems futile, for I expect them to advocate uncompromising authenticity as a matter of course, followed by the caveat that one may suffer from a mistaken sense of self. (The alleged “real me” has a conspicuous tendency to align with the evaluating party’s personal preferences.)

When driving a car, the decision comes easy.

But when dealing with other people, choosing whether to step on the brakes (as if so say “I’m holding back, because I want you to love me”) or on the accelerator (as if to say “This is me, and I don’t care if you love me or hate me”) is more of a headache.

And since truth may or may not be reflected in a show of hands, our overall popularity may constitute a somewhat misleading gauge of whether or not we’re headed in the right direction, and if not, whither we should swerve.

  • Cheri

    I think you probably know the answers to your questions. You know what works and what doesn’t. Are you passive-aggressive? If so, that would be a trait to work out of your personality as it is the most unflattering trait of all.

    If being”yourself” too much offends others most of the time, then it’s time to change (if you want to live among people).

    I mean we all go through what you are writing about here, especially at work or on public transit or in a classroom. What you are expressing are thoughts that I have had about myself many times.

    • Cyberquill

      No, I don’t know the answer to the fundamental question I posed.

      And I don’t always know what works and what doesn’t. Depends on how you define “works.” For instance, if something doesn’t work that isn’t meant to work, yet I make it work anyway by tailoring my words and behaviors to that end, am I doing myself and the other parties involved a favor in the grand scheme of things?

      Maybe the fact that something works (or appears to work) indicates that something else — perhaps something more important — is not working.

      Now please make yourself comfortable on the couch and talk about your childhood, in particular about how, among the myriad unflattering traits there are, you came to view passive-aggressive behavior as the most unflattering of ’em all.

      • Lucy

        You are overthinking.

        It’s not that complicated: if you don’t have very many friends (and I am not talking about the internet because we never know who is behind the words) and you irritate people either with your honesty or your passive-agressive quips, as I call them, quips that are meant to be smart-alecky and not real, then you get to choose whether to continue that behavior.

        If you want meaningful relationships, you have to be authentic. If your authenticity is abrasive, then you will find someone who appreciates living with sand paper. There are those people around.

        It’s about cost and benefit. When the costs of any behavior begin to exceed the benefits of those behaviors, then we usually stop them (at some point). Alcoholics/drug addicts may never stop them despite the costs.

        When the benefit of any behavior remains a benefit to us in some way e.g. we get to be right, we get to annoy our mother, we get to show our power, we rarely change the behavior until the cost exceeds.

        The psychiatrist is in: that will be 5 cents, as Lucy used to say.

        • Cyberquill

          I’m overthinking? Pehaps you’re under-thinking and your contemplative sloth has lead you to the lazy conclusion that I’m over-thinking.

          And I may be underthinking as well. Because had I mulled the matter longer and harder, especially with respect to how to put my mullings into words, then perhaps (a) people would be more likely to reflect upon the nuances in the question I actually asked rather than respond to some other question that happens to share a few key words with mine and the prefab answer for which the respondent can readily recall and spout back with the fleetness of a knee struck by a rubber mallet (speaking of prefab, I think I’ve used that line with the mallet somewhere before), and (b) I wouldn’t be creating the impression that I’m overthinking.

          It’s like if you spend time x composing a rambling essay of 5,000 words, you run the risk of being accused of having too much time on your hands. But if you then spend and additional ten times time x condensing your 5,000 words into 250 and publish the condensed version, suddenly no one will accuse you of suffering from excessive leisure time.

          So this is my preliminary reply to your comment. I haven’t hit the Post button yet. Should I go ahead and hit it? Or should I don my diplomatic hat and delete and rephrase?

          I’m guessing some readers will get a kick out of my reply, and some will find it smart-alecky and abrasive. You, Lucy, may or may not ever want to speak to me again.

          Now I’m sitting here “overthinking” what I should do.

          Alright. Lest I spend all day overthinking my options, and also in order to illustrate my point, I’ll just go ahead and hit “Post.”

          • Lucy

            You completely avoided the meat of the answer which had to do with cost and benefit. Read that again and think about it.

            • Cyberquill

              The meat of your answer completely avoided the meat of my question. If the costs of our behaviors exceed the benefits, we ought to modify our behaviors? That advice is non-controversial to the point of meaninglessness. And you have the nerve to charge five cents for that?

              My question was, if I don’t attain my desired results, is it because I try to act out too much of that which I, rightly or wrongly, consider to be “myself,” or not enough? If things don’t work out, is it because I tend to be too concerned, or not concerned enough, about how my words and actions will be received? Am I, perhaps, too self-conscious about how I may come across and people pick up on it and find that quality unappealing, not my “abrasiveness” per se? Should I think more or less before I speak?

              Besides, how does one measure “benefits” in the first place? By a show of hands? Van Gogh didn’t sell too many of his paintings during his lifetime. In what way, if at all, should he have changed his style of painting in order to make it “work”?