21 August 2009

You Don't Know Me

Listening to: Phoenix, "Armistice."

So I've been giving this article a lot of thought. To sum it up, it's basically about how hanging out with people doesn't necessarily mean you know much about them. Close friends, people you see every day, your significant other, none of these are indicators of how well you know an individual. Think of your co-workers, chances are that despite seeing them for most of your day, you don't know them very well. People are guarded and careful with what they let out. So that brings into question whether feeling close to someone is knowing a lot about them or them letting you know the bits about them that they feel are important.

A game I always want to play but never do is where you go around the room/table and say a fact about someone (pick one) until there's a last man standing. It's gotta be a fact. Like, "Joe likes corn, rice, and pepper." Or "her shoe size is six and a half." Conceivably you could go on forever but I think you'd find very quickly that the facts run out. Certain people could keep going but many friends, even close friends, might get eliminated just a few rounds in. Anybody want to play with me? Feel free to raise your hand.

The article says that generally when we hang out with people, we're looking for a rapport and a bond. We aren't searching for information or what exactly they think about politics or religion or ethics. Talk is light, you cover the basic facts and move on to hanging out. Repeat that over and over and you can suddenly have a friend you see often but actually know very little about. That's kind of sad right? Why hang out if you can't try to know everything about the person? Of course, there's a million reasons why you don't go there or talk about that but they all seem sort of weak and snively. I'd rather know than not know. If not, why bother being friends?

Then again, one thing the article brings up is that our conversations with friends are generally "focusing on areas of agreement and avoiding topics that might cause friction. Our natural tendency toward comradeship makes us, ironically, leery of learning too much about the people we’re befriending." So if you agree and say "yes" a lot, you'll make friends. There's certainly truth to that but it might make for lots of meaningless head nodding right?

I'm gonna try to be not so agreeable and see what effect that has. Be contrarian all the time. Will people just stop talking to me? I guess another important aspect of talking to friends is to present a nonjudgmental attitude. People who are easy to talk to, or who make you want to open up, generally aren't judgmental. They can be opinionated but if you feel like by telling them something they'll turn right around and talk shit behind your back, you'd probably not want to say anything. These people must be punished. And by these people I don't mean me.

Someone once asked me how much of a percentage did I think my friends knew me. I said eighty percent. She said that sounded awfully high. Is it? Is there any way to take some sort of test to determine how well you know someone? I mean, outside of self-created Facebook quizzes? Someone give me a grant to study this stuff, I'm ready to find out.