Know Them

It happens a lot. Someone will start talking to me about their life, their likes, and their dislikes and I end up asking, “Who are you?”

A coworker started talking to me about how fast their facial hair grows. That’s it. No build up to that. Just started talking about his beard (or lack thereof) out of nowhere. I told him you really ought to get to know someone first before you relate all the minute details of your life. I then introduced myself and told him my name. I don’t think he really cared about what I had to say.

I rarely see people trying to get to know each other anymore. Most people just stick with casual conversation and talk about nothing more than their interests and general opinions. Having people to talk to is a privilege. Not everyone has that opportunity. I wouldn’t want to waste time with an interesting person by talking only about my own interests.

Here are some things you should try to get to know about the people you are interested in.

Favorites: What a person likes determines how they spend their time. Asking someone what they like gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are. Many relationships begin by just spending time together doing what both people love to do.

Opinions: You can’t say you know someone if you don’t know how they feel. Knowing their opinions allows you to avoid touchy subjects and to relate to them on important issues. You wouldn’t want to find out the person you’ve been spending lots of time with actually disagrees with you about the things that are most important to you.

Stories: Everybody has a story. I’m not saying you need to know every detail about the person. Details alone don’t make a story. You can say you know their story when you know how they got to be the person they are today. Ask about their adventures. Ask about the crazy characters they met along the way. People appreciate when you listen.

I could go on about all the worthwhile things to learn about the people we meet. Everyone has talents, hopes, and dreams. It would be a shame to live among people you know nothing about.

Someone recently asked me what my best friend’s eye color is. I couldn’t think of it. Years I have spent with one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and loving individuals I have ever met and I didn’t know what color her eyes are. The same eyes I looked into as she told me how much she loves her family. The eyes I saw light up when she explained all the great things she wants to accomplish in one lifetime. I felt ashamed for forgetting those blue eyes.

Knowing people comes with time, but also requires care and attention. Relationships don’t just happen. They are built. It starts by caring about the person you are with. You can’t care about someone if you don’t know who they are.

A Disinteresting Theory

Those diagnosed with Asperger syndrome are often described as having restricted and repetitive interests. They are seen as lacking empathy and any desire to share their personal interests with other people. To paraphrase, they don’t seem to care about much. Might I suggest a more empathetic viewpoint?

Having interests makes a lot of work. It uses up time and attention. When we pick up new interests we create more work for ourselves. Our interest holds only when we feel the work we do is worth the effort.

Victims of Circumstance

Our interests build around what we know. We begin life dependent on others to provide us with access to new interests. We consume the material in our reach and we talk to the people directly in our vicinity. Environment determines which interests we can potentially participate in. When our circumstances change, our opportunities to pursue our interests change.

You can’t be a swimmer without water. You can’t be a pianist without a piano. You can’t be a friend without other people.

Think of the Needy

The needs of an individual prioritize interest. Each of us begins by meeting the needs that are most basic. First, we need to not die. Next, we need to find an environment providing the most opportunities. After this, we make for ourselves opportunities to pursue interests based on our separate personalities.

Our time and attention are often placed most on the needs least fulfilled. When faced with multiple opportunities, we choose the ones that will serve our purposes best. In the event when most of our various needs are at sufficient levels, we tend to focus on the needs that are easy to accommodate first before meeting the needs that involve more work.

Chained and Bound

A bond is forged when we decide to place an interest in something or someone. The bond is strengthened by the time and effort we put into an interest. Casual bonds are easily broken and replaced by other stronger bonds. Stronger bonds tend to last longer and are more beneficial to all parties involved.

A bond is more easily maintained when we are in close proximity to the object of our interest. It is simply less work to care about something in front of you rather than something far away. We tend to think less about an interest the farther we get away from it.

Point of Interest

Every potential interest has a point to it; a purpose which initiates our interaction with it. We gain an interest in something when we see the point behind it and how it works. We show no interest in something when we don’t see how it serves to benefit us.

A person goes to a social function to see if anything interesting will happen there. He or she will talk to a few strangers and ask them, “Who are you?” The strangers share a few details about themselves and then the person decides whether there is any reason to keep listening to these people. If no bond was formed, then the person will leave the function feeling there was no point to being there in the first place.

Flout Your Doubt

There is a reason why we don’t all share the same interests. Our doubts keep us from pursuing every possible opportunity we come in contact with. We doubt if a particular interest is worth our time, we doubt if we can make time for a particular interest or we doubt if we are able to accomplish a goal within a set amount of time. Many of us would like to invest time in certain interests, but we don’t pursue them because we doubt if we can make it work.

Doubt can be good. Doubt keeps us from pursuing a course of action we don’t feel we can commit our hearts to. Our actions should have reason behind them. No one should feel pressured to take every single opportunity available to them. We can doubt the paths we feel won’t be of much benefit and believe in the causes we know are worth it.

Express Ways

We each show interest in different ways. Some will talk about their interests with friends, some will make their interests into a career and some will be content just to have an interest. No one is limited in the way they can express interest in something.

It would be unfair to say someone must not care that much because he doesn’t do this or that. We shouldn’t judge people’s separate levels of sacrifice. Just because someone dedicates more time and effort into an interest doesn’t mean that person cares more than a person who gives less.

Cause and Affection

I know what it is like to be the uninteresting one. The one no one ever picks. I’ve watched as friends became less and less interested in my life. I’ve heard people say how wonderful I am just to never hear from them again. I’ve fought to keep people in my life who never intended to keep me.

I don’t know which people I can call on the phone just to talk with them. I don’t know who wishes to hear my story ideas. I don’t know who looks forward to spending time with me. It’s difficult to show interest in something you have no experience in. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people wondering why I’m not calling them at the same time I’m waiting for their call.

My interest is in being someone for someone; to be the example I would have others be for me. We transcend ourselves when we seek to help others even when we can’t fully see the benefit. Putting the needs of others ahead of our own requires a strength and dedication not everyone strives to possess. Someone should care and I’m not going to volunteer anyone besides myself until after I’ve given all my time and effort to the cause.