I religiously read Dear Prudence. I can never figure out how people find themselves in these situations. Adults, their whole life thrown off balance by some murky question of etiquette. Otherwise successful people perplexed as to how they seem to constantly alienate friends or family. It makes no sense to me – how are their lives like this?
What do they all seem to have in common? Comically bad judgment. And a lack of awareness that it may be the source of their problems.
When you make a decision, invest in a concept, make an assumption, your job is to listen to the response. To notice what kind of problems you seem to find yourself in and ask “Why does this keep happening to me?”
Some people don’t do this. No matter how many times their sense of direction leads them right into a wall, they get up and question why it was there and then do it again. If someone were to explain to them how to go around it, they would interrupt and continue on down the same road, expecting different results.
Partly, it stems from a faulty notion that we are never the problem, when in actuality, we almost always are. We take for granted that our priorities are good guides and that our gut is properly calibrated and is to be trusted. As we ignore the feedback that may call this into question, it becomes more and more psychologically difficult to accept that it may consistently wrong. Like an addict, it reaches a point where that faith – despite the mounting evidence to the contrary – is all you have left.
The idea is to treat your instincts like a rifle scope – to be sighted and dialed in before use. The little voice in your head doesn’t come fine tuned for any specific situation, remember it was designed for an environment far different than the one we live in. I don’t think there is any shame in realizing that you tend to drift to the left or the right. Call it a fact, or a weakness, a disability or a muscle that can be strengthened. Just call it something and question it constantly.