Dell’s latest XPS 13 doesn’t stray from the line’s high standards. It’s fast, slim and sturdy. Sure, the company didn’t change much, but it didn’t really have to.
Here’s a puzzle: You’re sociable. You’re fun to be around. You’ve got self-deprecating stories and an archive of jokes that lighten the mood of any group. You’re spontaneous. You’re good-looking — so much so, in fact, that a night out often turns into a semi-romantic escapade. You’re genuinely interested in other people, and you always listen intently to their problems and offer advice.
In short: You’re friendly.
Yet, if you choked on your dinner this week, there wouldn’t be a need for a casket. By the time someone finally bothered to check up on you, you’d be decomposed and intermingled with the perennial filth and dust in your apartment.
In short: You have no real friends.
That’s the conundrum I’ve wrestled with for most of my life, from childhood to adolescence to my early twenties. I’ve provided great company, yet my interactions with my fellow classmates and co-workers have never gone beyond frivolous exchanges. I am not “one of the guys,” and I’m often only invited to large, impersonal parties — never to intimate gatherings of a few. For the life of me, for years, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
Opening ourselves up to others is just another way to make our conversational partners feel appreciated. In trusting them with our personal matters, we’re implicitly asserting their importance — their trustworthy character and valuable opinions. “Wow, he unleashed such a cascade of candor towards me. I must be quite a sage, indeed,” they think. Our companion’s subconscious pats itself on the back. Madeline Miller put it better than I ever could: “He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
If we die a little every time a friend succeeds, as the writer Gore Vidal observed, why not give our friends a bit of life by telling them about our failures? I was rewarded for it, and I bet you will be, too.
You might worry that by making a habit of broadcasting the personal issues that pester you, you’ll come across as needy and self-centered. Indeed, Nelson’s advice sounds like doing the thing most relationship gurus admonish against: focusing too much on ourselves. For example, one of the central tenets of the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is that we ought to become good listeners and talk in terms of the other person’s interest, not in terms of our own. But this is the same sentiment Nelson offers, just explained in a different way.
Encouraging others to talk about themselves, about the things they treasure the most, makes them feel valued and important. We’ll be held in high esteem as the rare individual who allows others to indulge in themselves uninterrupted. As the psychologist John Dewey put it: “the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.”
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