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  • There's a particularly poignant way one can be a social disaster:

  • through over-friendliness.

  • A pattern of behaviour driven by the very best of motives

  • which ends up feeling as irritating as outright rudeness.

  • We meet the over-friendly at the office,

  • laughing at the jokes of the senior management;

  • behind the desk at the hotel,

  • wishing Sir or Madam a highly enjoyable stay

  • and across the table on a first date,

  • lavishly endorsing their would-be partner’s every opinion about recent books and films.

  • The over-friendly are guilty of three large errors:

  • Firstly, they believe they must agree on everything.

  • If the other says the world is going to the dogs,

  • they immediately nod in consent.

  • If a second later, there's a prediction of a utopian technological future,

  • they'll agree just as much.

  • When we say something clever, they're thrilled.

  • When we say something equally daft,

  • they like it no less.

  • Their ritual approval may seem attentive.

  • In truth, it's a version of not listening at all.

  • Secondly, their praise is ill-targeted.

  • Plenty of nice things are being said,

  • but they're not the ones that we happen to value.

  • They claim to love our umbrella,

  • our credit card is from their favourite bank,

  • our chairs are deeply beautiful,

  • we apparently have a nice way of holding our fork

  • but none of this counts for us

  • if it isn’t connected up with our own sense of meaning and achievement.

  • Everyone loves being praised,

  • but to be praised inaccurately is its own kind of insult.

  • Thirdly, their friendliness is remorselessly upbeat.

  • They point out how well we look, how impressive our job sounds,

  • how perfect our family life seems.

  • They want to make us feel good,

  • but they dangerously raise the cost of revealing any of the lonelier, darker,

  • more melancholic aspects of our characters.

  • By contrast, the less ardently friendly

  • and therefore properly pleasing person

  • will keep three things closely in mind:

  • Firstly, that disagreement isn’t necessarily or always terrible,

  • that it may be exhilarating to be contradicted

  • when we don't feel that our dignity is at stake

  • and that we're learning something valuable at the hands of a combative interlocutor.

  • Secondly, that people only want to be complimented on things that they are actively proud of.

  • The value of the currency of praise depends entirely on it not being spent too freely

  • and so the truly pleasing person knows they must pass over many things in discreet silence,

  • so that when they eventually do bestow a blessing,

  • their words can have a proper resonance.

  • Thirdly, that we are cheered up not so much by people who say cheery things,

  • as by people who appear to understand us,

  • which usually means, sympathise with our sorrows

  • and show willingness to travel with us

  • to the anxious, hesitant or confused parts of our psyches.

  • What enables the pleasing person to please is their capacity to hold on in social encounters,

  • even with rather intimidating and alien-seeming people,

  • to an intimate knowledge of what satisfies them.

  • They instinctively use their own experience as a base for thinking about the needs of others.

  • By contrast, the over-friendly person

  • allows themselves to forget their own likes and dislikes,

  • under the pressure of an excessive humility

  • which suggests to them that anyone impressive

  • could not not possibly share in the principles that drive their own psychology.

  • At the core of the pleasing person’s charm is a metaphysical insight:

  • that other people cannot, deep down, ever be veryother

  • and therefore that, in core ways, what one knows about oneself

  • will be the master-key to understanding and getting along with strangers;

  • not in every case, but enough of the time to make the difference.

  • Over-friendliness isn’t just a feature of one-to-one encounters;

  • it’s an entrenched flaw within modern consumer society more generally.

  • This explains why the airline exuberantly wishes us a perfect day upon landing in a new city,

  • or why the waiter hopes well have a truly wonderful time around the first course

  • and why the attendant in a clothes shop

  • pulls such a large smile along with their suggestion that we try on a new pair of trousers.

  • Here too, the cause of an asphyxiating friendliness is a sudden modesty and loss of confidence

  • around using oneself as a guide to the temperament and needs of a stranger.

  • Companies become over-impressed by the apparentothernessof their clients

  • and thereby overlook how many aspects of their own selves

  • are being trampled upon in a service context.

  • They sidestep the knowledge that just after landing back home after a trip abroad,

  • we may feel horrified at the thought of our responsibilities in the family;

  • or that moods of introversion and sadness can accompany us even inside a clothes boutiques.

  • They behave as if they were cheerful Martians encountering broken,

  • complex humans for the very first time.

  • The fault of the excessively over-friendly person can, in the end, be traced back to a touching modesty.

  • They are guilty of nothing more than a loss of confidence

  • in the validity of their own experiences as a guide to the pleasure of others.

  • The failure of the over-friendly types teaches us that in order to succeed at pleasing anyone,

  • we must first accept the risk

  • that we might well displease them through a candid expression of our being.

  • Successful charm relies on an initial secure sense that we could survive social failure.

  • Rehearsing how it would in the end be OK

  • to make a hash of seducing someone

  • is perhaps the best way to seduce them properly and confidently.

  • We must reconcile ourselves to the risk of not making friends

  • to stand any chance of actually making any.

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There's a particularly poignant way one can be a social disaster:

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B1 中級 英國腔

過分友善的人的問題 (The Problem with Over-Friendly People)

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    Kristi Yang 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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