Some people have a gift. They can walk into a business luncheon with a chicken hat on and not think twice about feeling out of place. My husband is one of those people.
He’s not afraid of critique, differing perspectives. He’s his own guy—even in a chicken hat.
I watch how much power it gives him. When he holds a conversation he doesn’t need to learn in, anticipating others moves, not needing to agree even when he doesn’t. He doesn’t smile and nod laugh on cue. This makes him a bit of an outsider, and I tease him how he lands just shy of the autism spectrum, but when I observe his interactions I see how this “disability” is in fact one of his greatest assets. People tell me, “I like Shawn, he’s a good guy” even after just meeting him briefly. People like him and he doesn’t even try!
I, on the other hand am a people pleaser. I want the people I meet to feel comfortable. I listen hard and respond to their needs, making sure they are at ease throughout our conversation.
I love meeting new people and learning about their unique perspectives, but I often feel wiped afterwards, because of the effort it takes to be present. I tend to stick with people that I know, who I can feel comfortable challenging at times.
This is not to say I am a weak person. I have strong opinions and will fight for what I believe in, but in the same breath I may be easily swayed, just to avoid conflict.
I care about what people think and this slows me down, but as a writer it can also be empowering.
I am a listener. I know people. I know what they want, what they need and this translates into strong characters and interesting dialogue.
Because of my people pleasing tendencies I am tuned into feelings; my own and others. Maybe when I’m talking in person I am not at my finest, but as soon as I hit that keyboard I am strong willed and focused. I know who I am and have a pretty good idea what my readers want to hear.
My husband, in all his nonchalant-ness is not a writer, and if he did he probably wouldn’t be so interested in character development. He’d probably shudder at the thought of intense emotional content.
And so we persist, he doing life boldly in his proverbial chicken hat, and me in turn writing, musing, and philosophizing about the people who wear the hats.