Umm…you’re not really my type.
I suppose we all feel like we have a “type.” The kind of people we seem to naturally gravitate toward. Others that we are drawn to and are similarly drawn to us as like-kind, kindred spirits, fast friends and the biggie…soul mates. But what about those that we aren’t necessarily or naturally drawn to. Do we treat them politely, and quietly move on looking for more like-minded individuals to offer our time and attention to? Do we smile and nod considering ourselves unlike some and dare I say superior to others? I am ready, willing and able to admit that this is human nature. That our chosen tribe should be made up of those whose thoughts, ideas, morals, ethics, intentions, ambitions and desires align neatly and nicely with our own. But I had an experience recently that caused me to pause and wonder if this tendency to gravitate toward “our own” is really, in fact, in our own best interest.
I was asked recently by a gal I know only in passing if I was interested in meeting for a glass of wine. As bizarre as this sounds my first reaction was suspicion. Why do you want to get together with me? We’ve hardly spoken, much less know each other so what gives? I didn’t wonder in a mean spirited way, but more in a baffled and confused sort of way. It caught me off guard because I had never identified this person as “my type” and so the invitation felt not just surprising but downright umm, well, odd. Since I’ve already sold myself down the river, I may as well continue to be candid and let’s just say I’m surprised the invitation involved wine. I realized I had actually made a laundry list of assumptions about someone I didn’t know and had spent very little time being curious and learning about. I assumed that she was an alcohol avoiding, cardigan wearing, craft making, cookie baking sort. I assumed that Me; who readily admits that I drive too fast, swear too much, listen to music too loud, and would rather eat gravel than spend time scrapbooking would most definitely not be Her type. If pressed, I would also assume she could do a mean cross stich and probably made baby gifts rather than buying them from Pottery Barn like the rest of us. Oh and did I mention I can’t so much as sew on a button. No joke. I’d probably staple it on instead. The assumptions and judgement calls we make about our lack of common ground are endless: he hunts, I would never do that. She works full time, I’m a stay at home mom. He owns his own business, I’ve been a corporate guy all my life. I’m Christian, he’s Jewish. I’m a republican she’s a democrat. She’s an outspoken vegan, I’m more aligned with the thinking that “not eating meat is a decision. Eating meat is an instinct.” We type cast constantly.
While I can’t explain why she put the invitation out there I can say that I will forever be glad that some force outside of my own shortsightedness urged me to accept. Why I did is still a mystery but what I learned is truly priceless. What began, at least on my part, as hesitant courtesy turned into hours of fascinating discussion, revealing candor and surprising connection. As we tumbled from one topic to the next, laughing about some, crying about others and leaning in to it all, I realized that my perceptions and assumptions had put me at risk of missing something spectacular. I had almost avoided inviting someone into my world that I didn’t know I needed. Someone that filled holes I scarcely noticed I had. Yet the reality is, life is crazy busy for us all. And quite literally in order to survive the unrelenting demands we have to make certain assumptions in order to determine what is the best, most productive, most challenging, most important use of our time. But why do most of us live our personal lives, using the “surround yourself with what is similar and familiar” playbook? Do we want a herd of quarterbacks on the field or would we be better served by having different players with vastly different skills and abilities on our team?
So get this irony: If we are to look at how we operate in the business world, we all know it’s utterly imperative to surround ourselves with people who are NOT like us. On purpose! It is, in fact, essential to growing any sort of business. Realizing that we have a God given set of gifts and abilities which are bound to be fabulous and truly impressive, our ultimate success hinges on finding people with DIFFERENT gifts and abilities. Most business owners I know are most definitely not looking for a relationship with the IRS, so we hire someone whose gifts and abilities lend themselves to being highly skilled at filing our taxes expertly and efficiently. Greg and I are not marketing gurus. Never have been and don’t see that changing by next week. So what do you do? Plug into people who are rock stars in this department and let them do their thing. Why? Because THEIR thing is not OUR thing and that’s a GOOD thing. I mentioned a few weeks ago a fascinating meeting we had with experts in the personal branding and social media fields. Not our wheel house. Thank God someone is different than us and has an instinct for this stuff! Usually in a business partnership, one person is the “big picture” sort creating the vision the partnership needs and the other is a tactician that executes on the details and the processes to achieve the shared vision. Their differences are precisely what creates a business built for success.
In relationships, I have trouble imagining anything more uninspiring than being married to someone just like me. And guys…being married to someone like you? That’s about as appealing as kissing your sister. There is a speaker Greg has called my attention to and one of his imperatives calls us to “agree on the essentials and have freedom on the nonessentials.” Do relationships need to share a like mindedness when it comes to character, values, family, work-ethic and integrity? You bet. But do we both need to have the same personality? Ugh! One of the things I love most about Greg is the endless ways he has pushed me to explore things I never would have reached for on my own. Why? Because he is different than me and learning from that difference makes ME better I would ever become without him.
As parents do we all hopefully have something unique and irreplaceable to bring toward the beloved effort of raising our children? Absolutely! If we were just alike we would most certainly be selling our kids short of a breath of experience, attitudes, interests and ideas that they should have as the backdrop of their childhood. As much as the world wants to be generic these days, moms and dads are made and meant to be different, offering irreplaceable and equally important influence.
So next time you run across a guy with ink all over his body and gauges the size of dessert plates, or you run across a gal who seems just a little too polished and perfect to be able to relate to your world of juggling demands like a circus monkey, pause. As I have recently learned, that person who “isn’t your type” may just be the one to teach you something spectacular about the person you need and long to become. A better mother, a better father, a better student, a better business person, a better thought leader, a better friend, a better me and perhaps a better We.