Misunderstood

People often form erroneous conclusions about me, typically because some superficial manifestation of my traits correlates with some others in their experience. It's understandable, but frustrating.

This page is a stub, created on 2020-08-22 (last updated on 2020-09-19). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.


Look-- I get it. I'm a weird guy, at least by the standard of what's prevalent in our culture. The intuition that people might have based on their experiences of which traits correlate with which others doesn't always work on me.

In a way, it's maddening, because I think of myself as being very consistent and rooting out compartmentalization wherever I find it. I develop traits and dispositions with thoughtful intent. Within the scope of things open to my influence/effort, there's very little that's accidental or a default based on being at the mercy of some environmental influence. I expect that consistency to make it really easy to understand me and to make me super predictable.

And yet, I find myself often feeling frustrated and defensive. It means that I have to be proactively defensive in that I have to pay extra attention to how things I say or do will land with people (and let me tell you, I'm far from perfect on this score, though I think I'm getting better with time). And it means that I end up getting reactively defensive when others assert their conclusions about me based on their inferences.

It's hard for me to fault others too much for it. At the end of the day, the human mind is an integrative mechanism, and it works based on heuristics and induction. It wouldn't be fair for me to expect people to know in advance that I'm an outlier that defies their models. But what I think is fair is for me to expect that people will exercise some amount of thoughtfulness and mindfulness and awareness about their cognitive and emotional processes, to think carefully about what their premises are and what kind of assumptions they're making in drawing conclusions about me, being willing to (re)evaluate based on the wealth of context I provide them.

Here's an inventory of some of the ways in which I'm commonly misunderstood:

Because I people erroneously conclude that I
do my own thing
or buck social conventions/norms
am trying to be provocative
or am seeking attention
do not allow others' uncalibrated emotions or
irrational opinions to influence my judgment or actions
am uncaring or intentionally attempting to provoke
am willing to defend my values like to argue
am direct am an asshole
am principled am inflexible and intransigent
have strong preferences/favorites
and am particular
am difficult and not easy-going
am often very flexible/indifferent/accommodating
about superficial concretes
am too eager to please
or am codependent/needy/clingy
or am insufficiently assertive
or have poor boundaries
or am engaging in self-abnegation
have difficulty saying "no"
and say "yes" too often
am afraid of disappointing people
want to be right
(understand the truth)
want to appear right
or "win" arguments
don't necessarily change my mind don't listen to others
or consider their opinions
have definite viewpoints am closed-minded
evaluate everything as good/bad, helpful/unhelpful, etc
or am "judgmental"
jump to conclusions too hastily
or am overly condemnatory
am orderly and organized have OCD
sometimes am not outgoing am standoffish/snobby
am excitable, goofy, weird, awkward, irreverent am unserious, aloof, vapid
am loud and energetic and talk fast am extroverted
like and pursue certainty am uncomfortable with uncertainty
or unwilling to admit ignorance
can answer objections quickly
or have fast answers
or am well prepared
engage in quick-witted rationalizations
am careful with language
and untangle nuance
play word games
care about my appearance am shallow
am shirtless all the time am looking for attention
am vain have narcissistic personality disorder
am an egoist or self-interested/selfish don't care about others
or am ungenerous
am confident and immodest am pretentious or a braggart
or can't see opportunities for growth or improvement
am open and freely share personal details publicly think people care or are interested in those details
or that I am seeking attention or validation
am egotistical/self-centered expect that I am the center of others' universes, too
don't ask people about themselves don't care about them or their lives
am highly logical and analytical am robotic, uncaring, or unemotional
have strong emotions am poor at behavioral regulation
am willing to be sad and cry intentionally pursue misery or am clinically depressed
spend a lot of time thinking about the past can't "move on" or be present
disagree with many economic regulations
and government-funded programs
am conservative / a Republican
favor open borders
and believe in a woman's control over her own body
am politically left / a Democrat
like to sort my garbage into recycling
and hate being wasteful
am motivated by environmentalism
don't identify as a Republican or Democrat identify as a Libertarian
avoid current events don't care about social/political/cultural issues
care about social/political/cultural issues am informed about "the news"

Clearly, a lot of the conclusions that people draw are based on implicit assumptions. What's interesting to me about many of those assumptions is that they reflect traits or dispositions that are common in our culture...traits or dispositions that are begging for some work and growth. For example, to conclude that shirtlessness is a bid for attention depends on assuming something along the lines of "A person who lacks self-esteem will flaunt their accomplishments in order to solicit praise, to compensate for their feelings of unworthiness.". I have no doubt that that is operative for a great many people who are shirtless "all the time". And, frankly, that is something worth investing some effort into examining and working on.

I also wonder how much these assumptions are not merely reflective of inductive generalizations, but rather (or also) confessions of one's own traits. That kind of projection is certainly not a crime, and it's perfectly natural, but that too warrants a greater investment in mindfulness and careful thinking.