Sunday, October 29, 2006

Peter Pan got it -- why can't the faculty?

Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own.... We tend to judge others based on their behavior and ourselves based on our intent. In almost all situations, we would do well to recognize the possibility -- even probability -- of good intent in others.... sometimes even despite their observable behaviour.

J.M. Barrie (quoted in Stephen M.R. Covey's The Speed of Trust, excerpted in O: The Oprah Magazine, which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to)

I was an English major in college. I think that the great authors were more astute observers of behavior and judges of character than almost any modern psychologist or psychiatrist. Novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie is but one example. Decades before Lee Ross formulated the fundamental attribution error, Barrie nailed it.

And the faculty simply doesn't get it.

But: I have to stop harping on that. This post officially ends my kvetching about how the evil faculty has it in for me. (I reserve the right to post more about Dr. Jerk should he manifest something really egregious.) It will just make me more defensive, and they'll judge me even more harshly. More important: it's not helping me.

Yes, they have no right to judge me. Yes, I have every right to be in the program. But I can't obsess over the temerity they had in telling me, one month into the program, that my boundaries are loose.

Keep your eyes on the prize, says my psychiatrist. I didn't want to hear it, but I need to. All I need to do is pass, get my degree, and get out of there. I don't need to make the faculty love me. They just have to let me finish.

Besides, I'll do better not only professionally but personally if I choose to be optimistic. Optimistic people live longer and healthier; people who obsess and ruminate about the negative things in their life -- i.e., pessimists, i.e., Ayelet -- get sick and die younger.

Optimists also go further in life; there's no denying it. It's fine to be right, but it's better to get along. And I had some evidence this weekend that a little social grace goes a long way.

I was walking home from dinner with a group of people when we ran into a girl I vaguely recognized, who vaguely recognized me. But she didn't really pay any attention to me until I realized that I'd met her at a party months ago, when she was sitting on the sidelines nursing a sprained ankle.

"How's the ankle?" I asked her.

The transformation was instant and enthusiastic: "Much better! Thank you so much for asking! How are you doing?" It was like flipping a switch. Suddenly she was attentive, interested in me.

So even though I'm not a big fan of social niceties -- it seems somewhat hypocritical to be nicey-nice to people I don't like -- I need to get over that distaste and just do it. Say good morning, please, how are you, thank you. Even to people I can't stand. Especially to people I can't stand.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing what sorts of doors social niceties will open. Yes, it might seem hypocritical, silly, whatever--but such things exist for a reason.