On Being a Once-You-Get-to-Know-Her Person

I’m sure we’ve all spent some time trying to imagine what kinds of things get said about us when we’re not around. I mean, that’s not just me…is it?

In any case, I’ve been around long enough now to know the gist of what gets said about me when I’m out of earshot, based on things I’ve overheard as well as things people have felt comfortable enough to say straight to my face. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that one of the things that gets said about me, especially to people who have not met me yet, is something along the lines of, “She’s great…once you get to know her.” Or, “Yeah, Audra – she’s pretty cool and funny…once you get to know her.”

I have mixed feelings about being a once-you-get-to-know-her person. For one thing, in my experiences with having received this qualifier about other people I haven’t met yet, I can attest that it has only served to put a bad taste in my mouth before I ever meet these people, and how is that fair?

Why do we feel the need to prepare people for other people’s personalities? Why can’t we let humankind be what it is? Two times recently, someone gave me a negative qualifier about someone else’s personality before I met these people, and both times, I ended up really liking the people and wondering what the heck my other friend had been talking about.

What we fail to recognize, when we attempt to warn people about others’ personalities, is that these are “flaws” as viewed through our own personal lenses of scrutiny. Just because some part of ourselves doesn’t connect with a certain person doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same way. That’s the beauty of diversity. It’s the beauty of everyone being different. And it’s the beauty of trying to live in community and harmony.

Sometimes there are rough patches, of course. Sometimes there is a lack of grace. Sometimes there is insensitivity. But, given all of these built-in variables, why would we make it worse with further qualifiers? We shouldn’t taint one another’s chances of being human and accepted by qualifying our introductions with statements like, once you get to know her.

On the other side of the coin, as a person who tends to be an acquired taste for some (if not most) people, I have to wonder how much responsibility being a once-you-get-to-know-her person places on my own shoulders. How much can I write off with the explanation “that’s how God made me,” and how much am I responsible for being sensitive to, apologetic for, careful about?

Once at work, I complained to one of my coworkers about a client we were dealing with. My chief complaint was, “He’s so rude! Why do we put up with him?”

My coworker’s response was, “Audra, there’s room for rude people in the kingdom of heaven.”

This response, while incredibly grace-extending toward the rude guy I was complaining about, felt at the same time like a slap in my face. As someone who has spent lots of time being made to feel guilty for the abrasive and acquired-taste parts of my personality; someone who has spent a good portion of time apologizing and making amends for insensitive things said and done and feelings hurt; someone who feels a heavy burden to change essential parts of who I am just so I won’t be offensive to others—this extension of grace to a complete(ly rude!) stranger felt like an affront.

I immediately wondered, Is there room for my personality in the kingdom of heaven?

I wrestled with that question for several months as I skirted the topic with various friends and, with a select few, approached it directly. In the end (and with some help), I came to the conclusion that not only is there room for my personality in the kingdom; my personality is needed in the kingdom.

However, this truth is not an excuse to shirk responsibility. If I hurt other people’s feelings, I am still wholly responsible for making amends and seeking forgiveness. Just as grace is extended to me, though, so I ought to extend grace to others. We’re all on a journey. It’s so much easier to connect, understand, and be gracious when we remember that.

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12 Comments

Filed under bloggy, irreverent, sentimental, writing exercises

12 responses to “On Being a Once-You-Get-to-Know-Her Person

  1. I’ve had friends who ‘aren’t good at making friends’ because they are fearful so they wear a wall; but once they feel comfortable around a person that person discovers a wonderful personality and wonderful friend to know.

    Sometimes, because of the fear of failure/rejection or maybe just not immediately open to new people (sometimes, believe it or not, I’m a shut down don’t-approach-me-I-don’t-know-yet-if-I-want-to-know-you person) because some people are so overly enthusiastic that they cross they typical time line of getting to know a person.

    People who assume ‘this is not my type of person’ shut that person down and have already pre-judged anyhow. So, there are times it is good to prepare those people/friends who judge the cover and not the book.

    I myself have had to kick myself and just. be. open. And, I’m often surprised by the wonderful new friendships I’ve developed with people whom I typically would have steered clear of due to their personality first impression.

    So, don’t look at it as a negative thing. Look at is as you are so awesome that your friends want people to take the time to know you, regardless of what ‘friend-issues’ those people have biased into their own minds. It may very well be that you come across intimidating because you are so strong and confident in who you are. Some people lack that and it scares them.

    Friends and I have the conversations of ‘You come across as…’ with each other. And, I will say in fact I can be extremely Type A, anal, black and white. And, recently one of Lil’Gal’s best buds Mom actually shared with me that I made her uncomfortable and like she felt like she had to watch what she said around me, etc. The kids have known each other since Pre-K and we’ve done the kid birthday party but never hung out.

    I explained to her that ‘Yes, I’m that person but that I self medicate to make me more tolerable to the rest of the world’ and we laughed. That was all it took for her to realize that I’m a cool Mom too and I’m not going to judge her jokes, lifestyle, etc. And, I must say I was secretly stunned that “I” had that impact on someone. So now I wonder, whom else do I unknowingly affect that way? And, I am sure I have a few friends (while I can’t understand why because I’m all over cool and fun, LOL) precedent a meeting with me with “when you get to know her.”

    Along with, “Be sure to always use a coaster, wash your hands often and DO NOT double dip.”:-P

    • FW, haha. The end of your comment cracked me up. What you said completely made sense to me. However, I think I’d still advocate using the phrase “once you get to know her” *after* someone has expressed an initial distaste for someone whose personality you know to be awesome. Like, if someone’s just gonna not give the person a chance after first impressions, say it then. But don’t taint the introduction with it, is all I’m asking!

  2. b longfellow

    Just yesterday I entered into conversation with a stranger. It was immediately clear we had some things in common; it was also immediately clear that I would be doing most of the listening. This disappointed and frustrated me and made it difficult to be fully present.

    Perhaps if I had been less in a hurry I could have settled into a more patient mode and had the chance to involve more of myself, but I had an important date for which to prepare. During the pause between each monologue, I checked the time and pondered announcing my departure; at the same time, my new acquaintance’s ideas triggered some of my own ideas in response, and I couldn’t resist sharing a couple of them, which, I knew, would result in another multi-minute monologue and an extension of the exchange.

    After twenty minutes or so, I sent a silent signal by pocketing or stacking up my sundry items; several minutes later I delivered a direct verbal message of termination and we parted amicably. I was only fifteen minutes behind schedule, a veritable success.

    I tell this story in response to your true and good conclusion: “Just as grace is extended to me, though, so I ought to extend grace to others. We’re all on a journey. It’s so much easier to connect, understand, and be gracious when we remember that.” Indeed indeed. And it’s so easy to forget that others’ journeys differ from our own only in their facts, not in their value or their worthiness of interest or their right to be shared.

    My question is, Did I really extend grace to my stranger-acquaintance? I would argue that I failed in the full sense of the concept. How *do* we offer grace? Might there be different ways to do so in different situations? In some ways, wasn’t I practicing my own, dishonest version of grace? Knowing we often patronize the same shop, might I have immediately expressed pleasure and interest in the acquaintance and suggested we may see one another again in the near future? Or, bolder still, could I have insisted at some point that I be allowed to talk too? Then I would perhaps have had space to make a more timely departure. Either way, the journey never fails to pique interest each day, and it’s all the more so (for better or for worse) when ours intersect with others’. Is it too much to suggest we might as well all get married? Maybe it’s too late. Maybe we’re all already married.

    • Brian, you bring up some intriguing questions. I’m not sure I necessarily agree that you were extending false grace or weren’t extending it at all. But that’s an interesting perspective, to be sure. I especially appreciate this insight you shared, though: “It’s so easy to forget that others’ journeys differ from our own only in their facts, not in their value or their worthiness of interest or their right to be shared.” Incredibly true, and yes, I do often forget that. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Hmm…interesting insights. Maybe this is a stretch, but on some level, isn’t everyone a get-to-know-you person? I mean, there really are an extremely small number of people you just immediately like the instant you meet them without saying more than a few words. It’s really just the *amount* of time it takes to really “get to know” someone that is different from one to the next. And I often find that it’s the people who take longer to truly get to know who end up being the best.

    • b longfellow

      That makes sense. This all makes me very nervous though since I’m almost the opposite of a get-to-know-you person. I suspect the first impression I make is often as good as it’s going to get.

      • Brian,

        Lucky for you, then, that your first impression is always a PDG one (that’s “pretty damn good,” in case you want to add it to your acronym dictionary). Don’t argue with me. I know this to be true better than you do. :)

    • Reese,

      No, I *don’t* think everyone is that kind of person. First of all, you are inferring the opposite of what I meant. You’re talking about whether you instantly like someone or instantly feel a connection with someone upon meeting. This is not what I’m talking about – of course that is rare. I’m talking about the fact that, generally, with most people you meet, you don’t feel an instant *dislike* of them. With liking *or* disliking, most of those opinions and feelings develop upon getting to know the person. I’m talking about people who (like me) often turn people off initially because of how strong my personality comes across. I can no longer count the number of people who have said either “I was afraid of you when we first met” or “I didn’t like you when we first met.” I have the instant dislike effect on lots of people. Usually, once they get to know me, they seem to change their minds and then become intensely loyal friends, defensive toward anyone who would say something negative about me. But very, very few people like me or want to get to know me better from the get-go.

      And, you might be right about people whom it takes time to get to know. But again… I’m not one of those people. I’m a pretty open book from the very beginning. It’s just a book that turns most people off at first.

  4. Keef

    While I agree with your conclusion on how to treat people, I cannot willfully follow your train of logic used to reach that conclusion. None of our personalities belong in the kingdom of heaven. It is only through grace that we are afforded our positions there (Romans 3:23-24). There is room for us there, we are wanted there, but we are not needed there. Our words and actions are a reflection of what is in our hearts (Luke 6:43-45). To say that we are needed in heaven indicates a selfishness or a sense of entitlement in our hearts. It is through grace that we are saved and we should strive to show this same grace to strangers as a testimony to God’s love and mercy. I do not make claims to know what is in your heart, but want to state one of the foundations of my belief and do so in a precise way. When Christ is in our hearts, our words and actions reflect Him.

    I love qualifiers. Acquaintances have used such a wide array for me. Any friend that has known me for a considerable amount of time just describes me as (insert real name here). You seem intelligent enough to form your own opinion of people, able to win others over given the time, and have friends willing to advocate on your behalf. So why worry about qualifiers? Why not just be the best (insert name here) God intended you to be and take full advantage of the fact that you have somebody vouching for a second try should the first one not work?

    FW, sweet Mary! No double dipping, indeed! LF, I want to buy you a drink, corner you in a room and force you to entertain me for hours. Reese, there are definitely those of us out there that age like a fine wine (but also some that turn to vinegar!). This was a fun set of comments to read through. Audra, thanks for picking a topic that spawned such distinct responses.

    • Keef,

      I think you are getting hung up on (what was perhaps a poor choice of) diction. I think I assumed that, because I have several friends who understand what I mean when I say “kingdom of heaven,” that everyone would understand. And that was foolish. I did not mean the physical place *of*heaven. I meant the kingdom, here on earth, that we are all building, contributing to, and living into every day, whether we intend to. My meaning was born out of a conceptual thought that, in order to live true kingdom lifestyles and in order to effectively build and contribute to the kingdom here on earth, each and every one of us *is* needed. Not that God needs us or that a physical place called heaven needs us. But more the idea that *we*need *one another*. Sort of like the body of Christ idea – each part works together and the body cannot function well without certain parts. Sorry to confuse.

      And I suppose, in a sense, I have made the decision not to care about qualifiers. But I still reserve the right to be indignant about them from time to time!

      • Keef

        I wasn’t so concerned about whether you meant the king or the kingdom, but more so the implications of what you said with respect to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Heaven and the body of Christ (or kingdom of heaven if you prefer) both require our salvation before we can enter. So regardless of what you or I mean, I was going to end up at the same conclusion.

        The body of Christ idea that you referred to (one of them 1 Corinthians 12:12-31) speaks about everybody’s spiritual gifts being needed in the body of Christ. Personality implies you, but gift is something given to you. Perhaps you mean something other than the character of a person when you speak of personality or our personalities are a spiritual gift or don’t even read these passages with the idea of spiritual gift in mind…

        In your latest response, you talk about us building and contributing to the kingdom here on earth. This I understand as evangelism. We build nothing; the word of God does. We are the ambassadors that spread the word. The question I have for you then is: what is our role in our and others’ salvation?

        Yes, I seem to be quite hung up on your diction.

        • I think I view my personality as a gift in and of itself. I didn’t form my personality intentionally or alone. While some of it may have been nurture, a good deal of it was also nature – it was planted in me. There are parts of my personality that can be used as spiritual gifts. I do not think the two need to be separated or distinguished between.

          As far as our role in salvation – I am not entirely sure that’s a discussion I want to get into on the blog…that could just be me being a coward and/or shying away from having to answer a question I’m not ready to answer or perhaps don’t know how to answer. But there it is.

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