An Eclectic Human
A newsletter about design, community, and being a human

1.22 Wanting to know where they are

Interesting conversation often involves asking creative questions that get people to talk and tell stories. But Rachael pointed out that even when you’re asked dull, quotidian questions, you can get creative with your answers:

Even if they ask me a standard question, I can give a nonstandard answer. For example, my religion professor had us fill out a getting-to-know-you form at the beginning of the semester. It asked what kind of car I would drive if I could, and I decided to dream big, bigger than anything that is currently on the market, and said a levitation device. Hehe. It also asked who my hero is, and I named a trait that touches me every time I encounter people who embody it instead of naming any one person.

She also had some thoughts about getting to know people in general:

When I encounter people (both strangers and people I know), I find myself really wanting to know where they are—in many senses of the phrase. I want to ask things like, Are you enjoying being here eating lunch right now? Or are your thoughts drifting to another time/place? Is this a typical routine for you? Or are you treating yourself? Or scrambling for time?

I guess I find myself more curious about a person’s present than their past or anticipated future. I like to feel and make others feel that they are seen. I see you, not just your circumstance, but you. Not just your past, but you as you are now. Not just an anticipated future that may never happen, but right here right now you are seen and understood. I want to know where you are in relation to those other things (events, expectations, occupations, circumstances, etc.).

Seeking to understand a person as they are in their current circumstances, in relation to past experiences or future dreams, seems like a powerful way to get to know them and be able to give empathy and support.

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This week, I’d like to share a few things I’ve read recently that you might find interesting.

  • A few days ago, I pared down my Twitter following list. I tend to be a completionist, so when I notice that I’m doing more skimming than reading as I try to catch up each morning, I know I’m following too many people. I originally got the list below 100 until Dylan convinced me I should try getting it under 50. It seemed absurd to me, but I did it and have so far found it worthwhile. Gina Trapani did a more drastic version (unfollowing everyone), and it made her “calmer, happier, more present, and less anxious”. If that sounds intriguing, go read her piece, The Great Twitter Unfollow, and give it a try yourself.

  • Seth Godin writes about “sorry confusion”. There are two types of “sorry”: one is an apology and the other “is an expression of humanity”. Of that latter, he says,

You don’t have to be in charge to say you’re sorry. You don’t even have to be responsible. All you need to do is care.

11  Learn the difference between something that makes you feel bad, and something that’s wrong. A thing can feel bad and be right, and it can feel good and be wrong.

67  Write people letters. Everyone loves getting letters.

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What is your favorite way to catch up with friends in person?