Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2003
Your exterior must match your interior
When I ordered cable TV and Internet service for my apartment two years ago, the costumer service agent asked what the primary use of the service would be. I wondered why it would be important for the company to know this. The cellular company asked me the same question.
Bankers often do the same thing. In most cases, I am hesitant to itemize the reasons why I need the service. Can't we just say we want them - period? Of course the agents would say it is helpful to let them know all of these things because then they can customize the service for your very own needs and wants.
In the growing thrust of customizing different services around us, people also customize themselves for the way they deal with others.
People tend to pick and choose what to tell others about themselves depending on the established trust level between them.
There can be valid reasons why people do that. The more comfortable we are with a person, the more we reveal ourselves to this person.
Normally, when a good level of trust is established, the customizing of oneself decreases. We become more upfront, more comfortable in sharing about who we are. We become less and less customized.
But there is also a reverse mode. The more we get to know someone, the more we become more customized, the more we become careful with how we behave, the more we watch the words we say or the things we do.
When we learn someone does not appreciate being told about his or her mistakes, we try not to cross that line. When we know someone is sensitive and can be reactive about certain issues, we do not discuss them when this person is around.
And when someone immediately recourses to self-pity, triggered by just about anything, we tend to limit the scope of our conversations to what's-the-weather-like. We may call this being considerate of others, or even being understanding and charitable.
But what do we do when the person we must deal with seems to be immersed in cynicism?
Is customizing ourselves for this person being virtuous? Does being considerate and understanding of others' preferences (read insecurities or childishness) really help them in the long run?
Or are we feeding their insecurities, letting them mushroom to the point they are stuck and unable to mature? Where do we draw the line of being considerate or is it not having the guts to tell others the truth?
Customizing ourselves for others can be taxing especially when we are doing it, not only for one, but for a multitude of people. It drains your energy and sucks the life out of you.
Some may call it being flexible. But I have a hard time calling it flexibility when customized behaviour is adapted specifically for just one person. I think flexibility is more like being adaptable to different circumstances without having to design a way of acting for specific persons.
When I asked a friend why we customize, she told me "I think we do that because of our own limitations."
In a way I agree with her. It is one way of adjusting to others' limitations vis-…-vis our own limitations. What worries me is that this practice can lead to our exterior self not matching with our interior self.
Jesus taught us our exterior should match our interior. All the time.
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