Monday, April 23, 2007

Reflections: Social misfits and the golden rule

You know the golden rule -- treat others as you would have them treat you. Well, you know, I abide by it, but it doesn't work, because I am a social misfit. So the rule should really be "treat others as you would have them treat you, until they ask you otherwise".

I learned recently that because of my social misfitship, I have been pissing a friend of mine off unwittingly. Said friend sent me an email saying that my behaviour was insensitive to them, inconsiderate to their significant other, and left a sour taste. Moreover he pointed out (which of course, being a social misfit, I didn't recognise) that my behaviour was also unusual. Of course, being a social misfit, but not unkind, I was upset and horrified to have been upsetting said friend. I was glad the issue was addressed in email, because it gave me time to react without the reaction being witnessed; I don't deal well when my emotions are on display. I wrote back saying I had not realised my behaviour was upsetting, and I would, of course, cease and desist. There was another brief email exchange where the friend said thanks, and I explained that my intent had not been malicious, and that had things been the other way around the behaviour would not have bothered me, because my view of things was different (and that I hadn't realised how unusual it was until it was pointed out to me). At that point said friend responded that I was not a social misfit, just different.

See, the thing is, it's too late. I have been reminded once again that I am a social misfit, in an angry tone, and in words that made me out to be the whole problem (as opposed to perhaps "I am uncomfortable when" instead of "you are insensitive and inconsiderate"). I'm feeling bad about all the incidences of the behaviour that have gone before. I don't want to see the friend anymore because I am scared I will slip. And I am hurt, because it was made all about how bad my behaviour was. And I am upset, because often, when I ask to be treated differently, my requests are regarded as unreasonable.

The upshot of all this? I'm hurting, the friend has everything they could hope for out of the situation, and I am probably an idiot for rolling again. And the golden rule, it only works when your friends are very like you. If you have friends who are social misfits, be kind to them when you ask that they change their behaviour. After all, they are your friends, and they are, like me, probably not being deliberately malicious.