Monday, October 22, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Ask Out Sisters

For a long time, I tried to persuade myself that a post like this wouldn't be necessary.

Mostly because I didn't want it to be necessary. 

See, I like to think that we still live in a world in which some of the more basic common decencies are observed: 1) you don't kick stray puppies, 2) you don't run down pedestrians in the street, and 3) you don't ask out sisters.  

You just don't do these things, people! Or, at least, you shouldn't, because they're all bad ideas.  First of all, if you kick a puppy, it will probably bite you.  Second, if you run down a pedestrian in the street, your insurance premium will go up (and you will probably dent your car). Third, if you ask out sisters, you're opening yourself up for a world of disappointment and shattered illusions. 

So you just shouldn't do it.

Lest you think I just plucked this topic out of thin air, I'll go ahead and admit that this blog post has been bubbling up ever since this happened to me for the second time. Yes, that's right, I've played second fiddle to both my sisters. 

And don't think that I'm bitter about having been second choice both times.1 Because I'm not

It's not that. It's the principle of the thing.

This is a social issue which must be brought to light before more people suffer.

Why You Shouldn't Ask Out Sisters:

1. Know that it sends the wrong message. At best, this sort of behavior sends the message that you are operating under the assumption that sisters are interchangeable--that because they moderately resemble one another, one sister would make you just as happy as the other. At worst, this conveys the idea that whichever sister you ask out second is actually second-best: otherwise why would you have asked the other sister out first? 

Don't think you'll be off the hook if you didn't even meet the second sister until after you'd already been turned down by the first. Unfortunately for you, female logic doesn't really work that way.

2. Realize that sisters compare notes. If you ask out females who just know one another in passing, chances are low that they'll eventually compare notes on you. But in the case of sisters, you should know that the comparing-of-notes has actually already occurred. Before the question is even out of your mouth your current Sister of Choice has already pulled up her mental file on you and ticked through a series of mental calculations regarding exactly how long you pursued her sister, how much time has elapsed since you last asked said sister out, and how this current experience compares with her sister's descriptions of your behavior. You won't notice all of this happening, since it often takes place in under a nanosecond, but based on her mental assessment of the answers to these questions, your fate is decided practically before you are done getting the question out. 

Really, for most sisters the answer is a no-brainer. Unless the sisters are dysfunctional and/or are highly addicted to interpersonal drama, you're doomed.2 

3. Understand that the situation isn't ideal. Even if she says yes when you ask her out and you both wind up wanting to pursue something more permanent, know that there could still be hidden dynamics in play. Relationships can be challenging enough without her having to wonder if you still secretly would rather be dating her sister. 

All I'm saying is that jealousy's a tricky thing that doesn't always make sense and that the dynamics of the sister bond are often inexplicable. So you're better off just not asking out sisters in the first place.

HOWEVER.............If you really feel that you're operating under extenuating circumstances and honestly can't restrain yourself from asking out a pair of sisters, then go right ahead.

See what happens. 

But you should know what you're getting yourself into.  

1. Oh, yes. It's true. But it only makes sense, because not only are my sisters both more talented and attractive than I am, but they're both vastly easier to get along with, not to mention both a bit less weird. But still. That doesn't make this sort of behavior any more acceptable, men!
2. Then again, if they are highly dysfunctional and/or addicted to interpersonal drama, you're still doomed. But you'll probably get a date or two out of it before you realize that you're doomed. So it's sort of a catch-22. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to be Friends with an Introvert (without driving him completely bonkers)!

Hard on the heels of last week's surprisingly popular How to Be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely), I'm now prepared to flip the coin and advise you on how to get along with the introverts in your life without driving them completely bonkers. 

Although to be fair, I should warn you up front that I might not exactly be the best person to offer advice on this subject, mostly because although I'm friends with a lot of introverts and love them dearly, I'm honestly not entirely sure that I don't drive them completely bonkers from time to time.

But we live and learn.

How to be Friends with an Introvert (without driving him completely bonkers)!: 

Step One: Remember that being introverted is not the same thing as being shy. To be shy is to feel a sense of apprehension or awkwardness when meeting new people or when thrust into unfamiliar surroundings.  To be an introvert, however, means to process thoughts and feelings internally rather than externally. Although some introverts may be shy, it would be a gross error in judgment for you to assume that these two qualities go hand in hand.1 

My sister/roommate is a prime example of this. If you have ever met her, you've no doubt found her to be friendly, chatty, warm, and personable. She has no problem trying new things and confidently travels the world enjoying zany adventures and meeting all kinds of new people. She is, however, a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. Her introvertedness does not make her shy, but it does mean that when she's upset by something, she does not talk about the situation until she has everything fully processed. It also means that unlike me, she doesn't feel the need to have a wrap-up chat at the end of the day in order to process the day's events (although she does succumb to these for my sake. Because she's AWESOME).  

Like most introverts, she enjoys what someone has termed "a rich inner life" of deep thoughts, daydreams, speculations, and opinions. She just doesn't feel the constant need to validate them by perpetually keeping the world clued in on what she's thinking and feeling. Unfortunately, to the uninitiated extrovert, this might cause my sister to come across as standoffish and hard to know, when in reality, she's just a very friendly introvert. 

Step Two: Remember that introverts need a break. In the summer of 2010, I took a spectacular two-week road trip with one of my co-workers, someone who also happens to be the most introverted of all my friends.2 Perhaps my favorite moment from the entire trip (other than the fateful day that we climbed to Delicate Arch and saw a man nearly plummet to his death) was the day when, having already driven about half of our 740-mile one-day haul from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, my friend Alissa turned to me and sighed, "You know..... we don't really have to talk the whole time." 

Yes, I'll confess: I probably had been talking for eight hours straight at that point. But in my defense, we'd somehow committed the massively gross oversight of not having packed any music, and the radio was only picking up static for most of that day. In addition, since Alissa and I had just recently started hanging out, I felt that I had a lot to tell her. Like... you know... everything that I'd ever thought or felt. Here we were, cooped up in a rental car while passing some of the most beautiful scenery on God's green earth, and not only did I find myself sharing the experience with a good friend, but I was also simultaneously able to lose myself in a haze of extroverted bliss, half-drunk on the joy of letting loose a torrent of hopes, dreams, and tales of wonder--all the while failing to realize that Alissa desperately needed time not only to process what I was saying, but also to process everything that we were seeing and experiencing that day, something I was making impossible, what with my steady stream of enthusiastic yammering.3

The point here is that if you want to be friends with an introvert, you need to make a concious effort to give him a break at some point.  For example, when I hang out with Alissa now, I compromise by only sharing with her every third or fourth thought that pops into my head rather than every single one

Step Three: Realize that introverts handle problems differently from the rest of us. This is important to understand, because if we fail to realize this, we may assume either 1) that the introverts in our lives are not dealing with their problems, or 2) that because they haven't said anything, nothing's bothering them. 

Neither of these assumptions is correct. 

Remember, introverts do their primary processing internally, meaning that when they've been upset or hurt by something, the last thing they want to do is to sit down immediately and talk it out. That's what an extrovert wants to do, because he needs to talk about what's happening in order to process it fully; however, the introvert needs time to work through everything inside before he's ready to talk about it. Furthermore, there may be situations in which he finds that his internal processing has been sufficient to help him handle the situation, leaving him with neither the need nor the inclination to talk it through at all.

I'm not saying that internalizing frustrations and hurts is the way to go, or--conversely--that letting your thoughts and emotions spew all over the place at a moment's notice is intrinsically bad. I've seen situations in which the former has been emotionally harmful and the latter has been surprisingly endearing. I'm saying that just like the extroverts of the world, our introverted friends are a pile of strengths and weaknesses, and that understanding why they react the way that they do will aid us all in getting along better.  

Step Four: Resign yourself to the fact that we may always drive each other a little bit crazy. If there's one thing this post has made abundantly clear, it's that being friends with extroverts can be a challenge for introverts, but did you know that the opposite is also true? 

That's right. Introverts drive us crazy!  

I mean, we do love you, but you have to understand that sometimes we feel uncomfortable that we don't know everything that you're feeling. We worry that you're upset about things that you're just not telling us (and if you don't tell us, how can we fix it?). We watch you sitting there peacefully, lost in your own quiet thoughts, and we wonder how much is going on in your head that we will never, ever know.

The truth is that more often than not, we find you completely baffling. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What's going on in your adorable little heads?

When confronted with an introvert, most extroverts generally resort to firing off a rapid succession of question upon question in the single-minded hope that if we can only ask enough questions, we will finally be able to puzzle out the secret of what makes you tick. 

This behavior, of course, will sometimes lead to the introvert developing an actual tic. 

But at least we can assure ourselves that we have made an effort to know you, which is not something we think you can say for yourselves. 

In summation, let me state for the record, on behalf of extroverts everywhere, how happy we are that you introverts are willing to put up with us? Because if you didn't deign to mingle with us, we would be stuck hanging out exclusively with each other.  And that would just be... 

Well, I don't know if there's a word in the English language adequate to describe just what that would be like.4

So, introverts of the world? Thank you. Thank you for surrounding us with your aura of peaceful strength and quiet mystery. 

Most of all, thank you for saving us from ourselves. 

God only knows where we'd be without you. 

1. Contrary to popular assumption, extroverts can also be shy. Unfortunately, our failure to recognize this shyness for what it is often causes us to chalk it up as low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. "How to Overcome Shyness" is, however, another post entirely.
2. It's due to her, mostly, that I understand even a smidgen about introverts. Hats off to you, AKB. Thanks for putting up with my bombastic brand of friendship. 
3. I think this is probably a run-on, but I don't care.
4. Although the Chinese have a good expression for it: 亂七八糟.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely)

Having spent more than a decade in a teamwork-oriented, socially-focused profession, I've taken and analyzed more than my fair share of personality tests. 

These tests are all well and good as far as they go, but I've noticed that although these assessments often describe the personality types and advise those of differing temperaments in how to work well together, they rarely go so far as to advise us on how to be friends with one another. How to genuinely get along with and understand one another. How to learn to breathe the same airspace day after day without fighting the urge to pull a lever that would drop an anvil down on one another.

You know. That sort of thing.

Never fear, dear friends. I'm here to fill the gap. In an as-yet-not-fully-planned, multi-post blog series of indeterminate length, I'm here to throw myself into the sociopsychological breach. 

You're welcome!

But first, a few caveats. 

One, let me state for the record that I'm a card-carrying ESTJ. (Surely we've reached the stage in social development at which most of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality assessment? Yes? No?1) The first time I read my ESTJ profile description2 aloud to my sister/roommate, she listened, wide-eyed and mouth agape in shocked silence, before asking, "Are you sure this isn't just someone who wrote up a description of you?"  

If there were only one change I'd make to the ESTJ profile description, it would be to add that if it were possible to be an Extrovert with a CAPITAL E!, then I would be one of those.

All of this is just to let you know that when I talk of being extroverted, I know what I'm talking about. I am not just one of them, my friend. 

I'm an Extroverted Extrovert with a CAPITAL E!3

Second, allow me to apologize on behalf of my people to all of you who are not extroverts. Allow me to offer a quick blanket apology for all of the ways in which we've caused you to suffer. We're sorry. Really.4

But enough of that.

It's time to quit dithering and teach you How to Be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely):

Step 1: Remember that being an extrovert is about more than being friendly and outgoing. Being an extrovert basically means that we process things externally. That means, among other things, 1) that we often don't know what we're going to say until we open our mouths and say it, 2) that we have to talk things out not just to clear the air, but also in order to complete key steps in processing what's actually happening, and 3) that events in our life haven't fully happened until we've been able to tell other people about them.  If, at the end of the day, I find that I've missed out on my chatty downtime with my roommate, I feel that I've missed more than talking to her: I've missed my chance to experience the day fully.  

This means that if you're going to be friends with extroverts, you bear the burden of helping them to process their own lives.  They need you to listen to their stories, to help them talk through their problems, and to laugh at their goofy ideas.  They need you to acknowledge the multiple comments they've left under every Facebook post documenting their stream-of-consciousness thoughts and opinions for all the world to see.

Remember that in the mind of the extrovert, for you to do these things is to aid in validating their existence

Yes, on the surface extroverts may seem like attention-seeking egomaniacs (which, indeed, many of them are), but understand that part of their drive to tell you all about themselves is that doing so helps them to feel that they fully exist. They are external processors. They need not only to know things, but to acknowledge those things externally, and --best of all-- have you acknowledge them externally as well.

They just don't know how to process the world any other way.

Step 2: Bear in mind that being friends with an extrovert can be exhausting (for both you and the extrovert). Extroverts are by nature generally energetic, upbeat, and friendly. Most of them have an innate curiosity about life, especially in regards to the people who inhabit their world. Their insatiable desire to interact with you and learn everything about you may feel exhausting (especially if you're an introvert! I know! I'm sorry!), but remember that this process can be equally tiring for them.

For many extroverts, the brain never shuts off. There are always more things to wonder, more things to ask, and more people to meet. However, no matter how physically or emotionally weary extroverts become, somehow they can't bring themselves not to care.5

Step 3: Forgive them for not being in tune with what you're thinking/feeling. Due to their outgoing natures, extroverts are assumed to be prime friend material; however, sadly, this is not always the case. Extroverts process their emotions externally, meaning that you will never have to wonder what they are thinking/feeling. Although this quality can be a strength, it also exhibits itself in several weaknesses.  

First, external processing means that most extroverts are ill-equipped to mask their emotional responses. Remember, they feel the need to express their emotions in order to process them. This often makes for messy, unfiltered explosions of emotion (ideally to be followed up later with an apology and more balanced response). 

Second, since extroverts are usually busy processing their own emotions externally, they are less likely to pick up on how you are thinking and feeling. 

Unfortunately, some extroverts never get a handle on these weaknesses, meaning that they go through life spewing their own emotions all over the place whilst simultaneously giving the impression that they couldn't give a rip about yours. In fact, most extroverts do care immensely about the feelings of those around them: they just aren't wired well for picking up on those emotions until it's too late. 

Not that I'm saying all of this is excusable, or that because we're extroverts it's acceptable for us to behave this way. I'm just saying that we're a bundle of strengths and weaknesses just like everybody else, and that sometimes our weaknesses get the better of us. However, because we're extroverts, our failures tend to be more obvious, given our penchant for being loud, entertaining attention hogs. 

Yay, us!

At the end of the day, if you can better understand your extroverted friends, perhaps you'll be more willing to put up with some of the more ridiculous aspects of our natures and love us in spite of our weaknesses.

1. You're not? See here.
3. So basically, that means you could take all of the weaknesses mentioned in this article, multiply them by a power of ten, and you would have a fairly good idea of what it is like to live with me.  I know. It doesn't bear thinking! My roommate is a saint, I tell you. A SAINT.
4. For more on this, see here: Open Letter to Introverts of the World
5. Extroverts in socially-oriented jobs will find this especially draining. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Make Life ALL ABOUT YOU!

As you spin through your solar system on this tiny blue marble, sometimes it's easy to feel alone.  But you are not alone.  Not by a long shot. According to recent data, nearly seven billion people inhabit the earth along with you.1


That's quite a lot.  

I mean.... think about it. Seven billion other humanoids whose thoughts, ideas, opinions, lifestyle choices, likes, and dislikes are very likely different from yours

I don't know about you, but I find this reality to be unacceptable for a number of reasons.  First, I find it unacceptable that there are even that many people on the plant who don't have access to the impeccable logic and streamlined musings of my perfectly-ordained mind.  Second, I find it unacceptable that there are those among that number who have had access to my thoughts and are now laboring under the delusion that my thoughts and opinions have valid contradictions.

What a travesty!

If you've found yourself to be emotionally paralyzed by the suffocating implications of this predicament, never fear.  I am here to help.  

I offer for your consideration (and ultimate acceptance, since--after all--everything that I think is perfectly accurate and my logic impervious to contradiction) a way to block out this reality and keep life ALL ABOUT YOU.  Just follow these four easy steps.

How to Make Life ALL ABOUT YOU: 

STEP ONE: Talk so much that nobody even has the chance to contradict you. So simple, but so brilliant. This, the first and most important measure, is vital because of its preventative nature.  If you're so busy talking that nobody else ever gets a chance to say anything, then you'll never have to bother even thinking about what anybody else has to say. See? SHEER BRILLIANCE.

STEP TWO: Practice selective hearing.  This may sound complicated, but don't worry. It must be easy enough, because even my intellectually-unsophisticated junior high students manage it all the time. To practice selective hearing, all you need to do is ignore any facts that do not line up with the pre-selected version of reality that you've already decided to cherish.  In this way, if you never actually hear anybody's contradictory statements, you'll never have to do any actual thinking.

STEP THREE:  Practice selective thinking. If by some accident you fail to practice Step Two accurately and you accidentally overhear a contradiction to your thoughts/opinions, be sure that you have bricked up a metaphorical wall of intellectual/emotional obstinacy that will keep you from actually processing the contradiction.  Across this wall, be sure to spray paint this phrase: "IF I DON'T ALREADY BELIEVE IT, IT CANNOT AND MUST NOT BE TRUE."  Be sure to hold the line on this one, because if a stray thought does manage to breech this fortification, you may find yourself in serious trouble. 

STEP FOUR: Sincerely endeavor to live an insular life. BEWARE: the more you're out there mingling with the rest of the seven billion humanoids inhabiting your planet, the more vigilantly you'll be need to practice the above principles. Better to stay tucked safely away at home, spending quality time with the sweaty-haired, megaphone-clutching voice in your head.

Above all, remember: there may be nearly seven billion other people on the planet, but none of them are YOU. Therefore--since none of them are as worthy, as special, and as gifted as you are--their thoughts, opinions, choices, and values must not be nearly as important as YOURS.  

Even if nobody else is enlightened enough to acknowledge it (yet!), you should still feel free to grasp the self-ordained right to be crowned Unacknowledged Intellectual Despot of Planet Earth.  

Go ahead.  Do it. Experience the thrill of knowing that you are an unparalleled intellectual genius. There's no feeling quite like it.

After all...... it's not like you're missing out or anything.


1. It's on the internet. It must be true.