Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is that Ok with You?

I'm a people watcher. At any social gathering, I enjoy just sitting back and processing it all. The subtle glances between husband and wife; the business man checking his Blackberry, again; the loner staring off into space; the extrovert hamming it up, much to the pleasure of his 'audience'; and, of course, the other 'people watchers' who, like me, are taking mental notes.

I love to analyze things, peoples, events, conversations - pretty much everything. I often will memorize important conversations, and play them over and over again in my head - trying to catch something I've missed. One thing I love to do is place people into their respective "I'm Ok - You're Ok" category. If you're not aware, "I'm Ok - You're Ok" was a very popular "self-help" book in the early 1970's, written by Dr. Thomas A. Harris.

I won't try to summarize the book here, but basically (and this is an over-simplification) there are four life positions/attitudes you may embrace.

1. I'm not Ok, You're Ok (low view of self, "high" view of others)
2. I'm not Ok, You're not Ok (low view of self and others)
3. I'm Ok, You're not Ok ("high" view of self, low view of others)
4. I'm Ok, You're Ok ("high" view of self and others)

I don't share this with you because I agree with the prescriptions of Harris (I don't), I share it with you because I find his descriptions of people quite fascinating. I find these four categories very helpful in being more aware of what makes people tick. With a little thoughtful observation, I think we could understand those around us a lot more.

While, in many instances, categorizing the behavior of someone may seem a bit trivial, there are other times when it can be very important. We should train ourselves to notice the bizarre behavior of others. If someone blows their top over some minor detail (the straw that broke the camel's back), it ought first to move us to compassion and curiosity, not condemnation. In reality, their temper tantrum, off-color comment, or startling behavior may be a symptom of something deeper. It is the loving friend who notices, and (here's the kicker) does something about it.

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