We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
One aspect of being "socialized" humans is the capacity to appraise the people we have any meaningful contact with. Most people get better at this, over time. Older is wiser, usually. We get too soon old, and too late smart.
These appraisals happen automatically. We know that most human "thought" takes place as non-deliberately as our digestion. We call that intuition: "I like the cut of his jib;" "She seems like a superficial ninny;" "There's something off about them but I can't put my finger on it;" "He's crazy;" "She strikes me as a strong, upright person;" "He feels calculating and devious;" "She seems full of fun, sexiness, and vitality;" "A schmoozer-saleman-type who, if you offer them your hand, takes you by the arm;""The guy seems very shrewd and clever;" "He's a gloomy Gus;" "Too needy;" "What a phony;" "She's a flake, but a good kind of flake;" "He's an Old Soul;" "He's got a personal agenda;" "This kid will go far."
We get a quick "feel" for people. Vibes. Our brains have a remarkable ability to form automatic and almost instant impressions of a person, accurately or not, from an abundance of information: social presentation, tone of voice, body language, posture, facial expressions, dress and grooming, use of words, style of interacting, and social signaling of all sorts. It takes around a fifth of a second, after all, to fall in love or in lust, and not much longer to think that you might, or might not, want to consider getting to know somebody. Of course, it pays to be careful, but most people mean well unless they are on the make in some calculating way, and everybody wants some things - but perhaps not from you.
When we have any interest and curiosity in a person beyond the superficial (driven by such things as business dealings, attraction, things in common, etc), we have to move past the intuitive impressions, which are often in error and contaminated by emotional and/or transference reactions, put our thinking cap on, and do a little active thinking about a person. People don't do it in the methodical way that shrinks do as trained observers and inquirers, but cover many of the same bases of human interaction. For some examples:
- intelligence, curiosity, fund and depth of knowledge, abilities, talents, wit, good cheer, interests, goals and dreams - do we get along - are we on the same page with shared assumptions and understandings? Same tribe? Do we speak the same language, so to speak? Or are we different in interesting ways? - quirks, eccentricities, weaknesses, criminality, and obvious flaws - respectfulness, decorum, and self-respect - sociability, manners, openness, depth, relatedness or self-centeredness, self-awareness - integrity, honor, self-control, level of BS, reliability, trustworthiness. Are they givers, takers, or neither; general emotional maturity and judgement - level of energy, vitality, and ambition: Are they fun or stimulating to be with? As Imus would say, "What do they bring to the table?" - level of life functioning (that covers a whole lot of territory)
along with other considerations, and, of course:
- Do they want something from me and, if so, what? (eg sex, money, love, favors, attention, status, casual social acquaintanceship, friendship, close friendship, Christian fellowship, help, companionship, collegiality, conversational amusement, or, as in most cases, little or nothing at all, etc.). If we're in an introspective mood, we might also ask ourselves what we want with them, and where we want to locate our boundaries with them.
Shrinks, when at work, attempt character assessment in a way that is analogous to a physical exam (ie "Come into the consulting room and take your social facade off. Strip to your psychological underwear. The doctor will be with you shortly, and you can let her know who you really are, what you are really made of, and what your private struggles are.). I am not impressed that, in the end, we shrinks make many fewer initial errors than the average thoughtful and perceptive person on the street. We just don't use the same lingo.
I began this post with the intention of writing about different levels of life functioning, with this as an intro, but this is already long enough for now. LOF can wait until later.