Beside the point

Published on August 15, 2013 by      Print
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By Kate Stone

He said something wildly inappropriate.

He backtracked and tried to fix it.

He held up a fist for me to pound.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said. “I want you to take my apology. Really. Because I like people.”

So much of this is beside the point: everything he said (a physical comment), anything I took offense to (I’m already over it), whether or not I would accept an apology (I would). But the biggest, gaping-est hole the points that land outside of the story have created is that his reaction to his own fault was a plea for his own sociability.

“I didn’t mean to; I like people.”

Have we confused basic humanity with a pressing need to like people? Liking people is beside the point. The point, the gooey middle, of humanity is to respect other people.

How to be human in the dead center of the point is to do these things:

1. Don’t say stupid things that make other humans feel like mutant sea creatures.
2. Fall in love with—really insanely, confusedly in love with—human traits like having feelings.
3. Own your mistakes as actions you have taken on the path of being a human.

Your fallibility makes me see you as no less human. Just as you should see me as no less human for resisting your words in the first place. That may have been a mistake too. Neither of these facts has anything to do with how much you or I like anybody.

I do not care if you like me. It weights me in no direction to accept your apology on the basis of your interest in the lives of more people than the average American.

“I didn’t mean to; I have 1,500 Facebook friends.”

“I didn’t mean to; I want to buy you dinner.”

“I didn’t mean to; I’m not a sociopath.”

Of course you didn’t mean to; you’re a human. Just act like one.
Kate Stone

About Kate Stone

Kate started taking yoga in middle school as a rebellious move against sports camp. After years of gymnastics, not having to flip over after a backbend was a relief, and the practice stuck. After college, Kate moved to Chicago to teach mean children how to read. She was marginally successful but felt severely, physically ill-equipped to deal with the fighting in her classroom. As someone who takes things literally, she became a personal trainer. Kate spent eight years in Chicago working in gyms, bars and museums, feeling like she was supposed to have a real job. Three years ago, she realized she doesn’t ever want one of those. Kate spent all of her money on yoga training, and is now a yoga teacher, writer and bartender living in Boston.

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  1. Matthew says:

    I was JUST talking about this in a meeting. I said “whether or not you like your coworkers is beside the point. You work together, regardless or personal preferences”. This was met with mild applause. Now, I am going to send this piece out to the attendees. I have been saying this far less eloquently for years. Thanks.

    • Kate says:

      Ha! It will never cease to amaze me that when I feel like such an outsider, I can write something and realize there are actually other people who understand things like this. Thanks!

  2. VaneZane says:

    People still do fist pounds ?

  3. mike says:

    I know this entry is several months old and no one will probably read it.

    Your words and attitude strike me as either very heartless (and humorless), or perhaps just ignorant of one or two things about human nature.

    Some people will always have a hard time knowing the right thing to say. They will always say “stupid” things. At least this person that “offended” you picked up on it right away and tried in his awkward way to make ammends. But that wasn’t good enough for you. You wanted him to do it in the perfect, graceful manner that you yourself imagine you are capable of. Try not being so judgmental. Maybe he was struggling with the idea of whether he really does like people or if he really likes all people and that’s what came out.

    You write that the a basic requirement of being human is not saying disrespectful things. Well, it doesn’t matter how long some people work on themselves, they will never be that good at being sensitive to what’s around them. They are not bad people or “sociopaths”. They just don’t have a high social intelligence. Which makes them easy targets for people that are better at that skill. It is similar to how some people don’t have visual/spacial intelligence or high mathematical reasoning. It would be like saying to a kid that struggles with math: Try acting like a human being and stop confusing your negative and positive numbers.

    Having feelings and strong or attuned sensitivity to the feelings of others, believe it or not, is not a requirement for being a decent human being.

    Also, if you really didn’t care so much about whether he “likes” you or not, you wouldn’t be lecturing him or ridiculing him on this public website. It would have been like water off a duck’s back and you would have had something kind to say to help him feel less socially awkward. There’s nothing wrong with your having strong feelings and having your feelings hurt easily. But try to not be like the hairdresser that judges everyone on how nice their hair looks or like the astronomer that judges everyone based on how skilled they are in scientific knowledge or reasoning. Just try owning this: “My feelings are hurt easily amd I recognize it will be hard for me to be around people with low social IQ’s.”

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