Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Trading Places...

I have so much to do today, I haven’t time to think up something to write about. I went to Robbie’s journal again this morning, and she had posted a new question from her "Game of Life and Love."

If you could adopt one personality trait from someone you know, what would you take, and from whom?

My first thought was, "Oh, this will be quick and easy to write…" But now, I’m not so sure.

The first thing that immediately popped into my mind, was a trait that my husband, my older sister, and my former best friend all have in common. I’m not sure how to put it into words, though. Any one of the three of them would rather walk barefoot through hot coals than have an emotional confrontation. In any emotionally-fraught situation, they will be the ones who appear cool, calm, and controlled.

This is the exact opposite of myself. I am a completely transparent person. If I am feeling something, at the very least, it is expressed plainly in my eyes and body language, if not verbally. There is nothing of guile or pretense about me…there never has been. When I was very young, I actually cherished this part of my personality. I thought of it as a deep-seated honesty, a natural gift of integrity.

As I grew older, I came to realize what a pain in the ass it is. Emotional transparency is NOT a blessing. For one thing, it makes one too vulnerable. I began to find out that there are people out there that get ahead in life by perceiving other people’s emotional flash-points, and exploiting them. In other words, they find out what your buttons are, and then they manipulate you by pushing them. I can’t begin to think how many times I’ve fallen into THAT trap.

And, I began to learn that it’s not always appropriate to express one’s feelings about every little thing. It gets you absolutely nowhere in the business world. But, when something is as natural to you as breathing, it’s very hard to keep it in check. I’ve never mastered the art of the poker face, and when I care deeply about something, I just CAN’T keep my mouth shut. It was when I began suffering for my "lack of guile" that I started coveting the "control" that my husband, friend and sister all shared.

Now, another twenty years or so down the road, I’ve come to realize that their inability to express themselves emotionally is as much a burden as my inability NOT to. All of them, now in middle age, have health problems, that I attribute directly to their "emotional reserve." Those feelings have to go somewhere, and when you "stuff" them, they will eat you up from the inside out. I firmly believe this.

AND, the three of them tend to be…well…doormats. In order to avoid confrontation, they’ll quietly go along with other people’s ideas, calmly cooperate with the status quo, bend to the will of the strongest individual on the team… NEVER speak up for themselves. I would HATE to be like that. I don’t think their emotional reserve has served them any better, in the long run, than my emotional transparency has served me.

So, I didn’t really answer the question, did I? Actually, maybe I did. At this stage in my life, I can see how adopting a personality trait from someone else would cause me to give up something of myself. And, while it would certainly solve some problems in my life, it would probably bring with it a whole set of new ones, with which I am ill-equipped to cope. For better or worse, I guess I’ll just have to live with what I have!


  1. I think living with what you've got, accepting it, and loving it is really the wisest thing any of us can do.

  2. Interesting to think about the back side of the coin.  I'm sure any trait that one might adopt would come with both pluses and minuses.  So agree, we know how to live with what we have...and maybe the best we could do is just try and modify our extremes.

  3. This is a fascinating entry!  I'm much more like you, and I've fail;ed at several 5-year plans to become more diplomatic.   But you're right; other people do suffer, just in other ways, from traits that we admire in them.

  4. I like your answer.  My feelings on this are that I prefer to surround myself who let me know where I stand.  My husband is brutally honest (in the workplace and at home).  Most of my life I was just the opposite, but am slowly coming over to the other side.  I admire people who are honest and real.  In the past, my husband has learned NOT to say some things that he really would rather say in the workplace, but on the whole he is the guy who tells it like it is.  He had to find a place where that was appreciated (and there are places like that, believe me).  I agree that those people who push all their feelings down, suffer in other ways.  I'd rather get all the negative out of me than let it rot my insides.

  5. I also wear my heart on my sleeve, and I firmly believe it is a flaw.  I speak my mind and all my emotions spew from my mouth when they are better kept in check.  I think we are both searching for a middle ground, looking for some restraint when the situation calls for it.  I definitely am short on tact at certain times, I have this inner struggle with my conscience, wanting to be totally honest but at the same time not wanting to hurt someone's feelings.  My feelings always win out and brutal truth leaps from me.   I don't believe its a good trait at all.  Let me know if you find the middle ground, I may want to buy or at the very least lease part of it from you!  Kristi

  6. Well cool is as cool does.  I was gonna write a response to Robin's If book question, but all I have to do now is provide a link here.  I'd have said the exact same thing.
    I have grown comfortable with my confrontational style and feel sympathy (though not empathy) for those who feel that their emotions are best kept bottled.  Posh.  I will never have an ulcer.
    Maybe I'll still write... at least about whose characteristics I do covet.  We'll see.

  7. Hmmm This is a very interesting entry here...I believe Emotional Transparency defines truthfullness, and honesty.  I do not see it as a bad thing at all.

  8. Great entry! It's a yin and yang. You and your husband counter balance each other. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I hold my thoughts in and keep my cards close to me but hit the right buttons and kaboom my emotions are all over the place. :-) ---Robbie