We’re not supposed to judge, but of course we judge. Sometimes it’s to set standards for ourselves, even if we don’t declare it that way. Sometimes it’s simply based on a feeling we get around certain people.
Aren’t we always forming judgments? Don’t we have to, in order to establish values? And if we stick to ours, sometimes we can’t stick with a relationship. When I leave you, if I feel slightly soiled because of the things you said or the way you treated people or just the way you are in the world, that begins to feel like a reflection on me and my choices.
Some people work hard to make us feel good about ourselves because it’s good for business. I have no quarrel with that. Professional niceness goes a long way. I’m always going to prefer to sit in the section of the coffee shop where the server smiles and seems glad to see me.
A few years back, a close friend had stopped driving so I took him on his errands. He insisted on doing business in person with people who knew his name. If they weren’t working when we stopped by, he asked about their schedules and said he’d return when they were there. If they were busy with someone else, he’d wait.
He wanted only to be with people who made him feel good, who greeted him, remembered him. We drove around so he could hand them his bank deposit, pay his bills in person, wait in the line at Safeway for his favorite checker.
The people who make me feel good about myself don’t have to do it with flattery. That only works some of the time. If it always worked, we’d never learn any other approach to interactions. If that worked, every stranger with a sales pitch would be our new best friend.
I like to listen to how people treat others. Some people do it so well they create behavior that actually leaves behind calm and positive feelings. It’s aspirational on my part. I want to be more like that more often, so I need to be around it.
When I leave wondering why I’ve spent time with you, it diminishes my opinion of my own values and eventually I’ll need to eject myself from the relationship. I can’t always get away from the source of the discomfort, but I can limit my exposure by raising an emotional barrier.
Maybe it’s not just you. Maybe it’s not just me. But it’s definitely me with you that has to change.