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Every time we tell someone personal details -- intimate information -- the person is in a better position to hurt us *unintentionally*. (I am not interested in intentional hurting or gossip or anyone else but the two people talking.) Imperfect people say imperfect things to each other all the time. And it is fairly common to make a joke that is taken badly; explain something person didn't want to know; criticise unhelpfully; or otherwise make some error. And, we are generally pretty good about not holding a grudge or even being coerced by the errors. If something weird is said, people often just say "nevermind" and forget it. Or change the subject. Or ignore it.

But anyway, these minor mishaps are there. And, sometimes, there are larger ones. Perhaps not as common or severe as romantic movies would have us believe, but they certainly happen and matter. Usually they get solved too, no apocalypse. Sometimes not. Whatever.

Now, what can we say about the ability of these mishaps to hurt us? Well, to be hurt, we must take them personally -- have some emotional stake. If we don't care about some domain, we won't get hurt in it. It's only when we care, that we are vulnerable.

And one thing that we are quite attached to, is our own personality. For good people, not all of it -- we may be totally open to criticism in some fields, and not at all attached -- but no one is all that near the limit in that direction. When our friends are upset with us, we care. When those we know well and like and respect, think us bad, it is not as nothing. If a troll rants and raves about how evil we are, we will not mind. The attacks will miss the mark without the most extraordinary of luck. We will be amazed at how badly he misread us. But if a close friend went for it...

So, I keep talking of friends and intimacy -- what's the defining characeristic of those? Knowing each other -- or to make alice happy -- having an understanding of each other's personalities. How does this normally come about? Hanging out, chatting, shared projects, etc

Now, as long as we are gradual in creating understanding of each other, things may go wrong, but I am not worried. There are dangers inherent in everything, no big. Our knowledge of the person, and of how not to hurt the person, will grow together. The second being pretty much totally inexplicit.

But the point is, what if we attempted to create lots of intimacy -- to share lots of personal knowledge -- discontinuously. What if we just met some random person, and started pouring our heart out, giving up all sorts of details? What will happen?

We'll end up with someone, making lots of mistakes, and not knowing what to say to us, and not really understanding us, but with access to our most sensitive spots. We'll be frustrated with criticism useless to us; and hurt by others that shouldn't have been said; and not hear useful ones because person misjudges which to say. We'll hear suggestions we've tried; suggestions that offend us; suggestions that are exactly wrong. And all sorts of things will be misunderstood. And what for? To what end? No good one.

Getting along well, must evolve.

Elliot Temple on April 1, 2003

Comments (2)

If the parts of you that you care most about are your deepest ideas (i.e., ones that are important to your character, instead of ones you'd easily change if someone pointed out a criticism), does that mean you should refrain from talking about the deep ideas, and instead do more smalltalk stuff first?


Anonymous at 9:27 AM on November 26, 2008 | #1709
> does that mean you should refrain from talking about the deep ideas, and instead do more smalltalk stuff first?


Anonymous at 11:00 PM on January 3, 2017 | #8162

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)