This week, we're taking a break from the blog series of Living Forward, Looking Backward book excerpts - check back next week for the final post.
I found one of my best friends, Dave, because he was short, and I was short, too.
When I say short, I mean short. I was 4’ 9” on the first day of my freshman year of high school. The average height of my fellow freshman was a full 12 inches taller than me. So, I couldn’t help but lock eyes with the only other guy who shared my line-of-sight. We shared a similar “perspective,” if you will, and we became fast friends.
Today, I still look for the short-kid-in-the-crowd. I try to associate with people who look like me, whether I’m choosing a seat on an airplane, or walking into a backyard barbecue full of people I don’t know.
We all do it. We feel comfortable around the people who like what we like, and who share our political, demographic, and social points-of-view. Sociologists call this “finding our tribe.” It’s a throwback to the days when people lived in small villages of family and friends. People who looked like us were safe. Anyone who didn’t was a potential threat. That mindset was ingrained in us, and still today, it influences how we relate to and interact with each other.
I believe, however, we make stronger and more authentic connections when we share what makes us different – our quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Shared interests and similar hobbies are fine conversation starters, but if we want to create real, genuine friendships, we need to get weird.
It’s the paradox of relationships. Revealing the weird things about us actually makes us more lovable and relatable.
So, if we ever find ourselves craving human connection, and our close friends are those who know the intimately odd things about us, why shouldn’t we readily share our quirks with the people we first meet?
If you don’t believe me, the next time you need to create a name tag for yourself, try this out. At a networking event or social hour, for example, I’d pick up one of those “Hello My Name Is,” sticky tags and write out “Nate: I like Peanut-Butter Toast. Think about that for a second - what would you write on your name tag?
Or, you could just read the list of my own quirks below. Can you relate to any of these? If you can, do you feel like we’re better friends, now?
- I bring a backpack everywhere. When I run, when I walk, even if there's nothing in it. Who knows? I might need it.
- I eat peanut butter and honey on two slices of toast, every single morning, without fail.
- I also have a thing for plain greek yogurt. No sugar, nothing. I eat a pound of it each week. Sometimes I put in ice cream cones, other times I spoon it right from the container.
- I take icy cold showers just so that my clothes feel even better when I pull them on after.
- I hate washing mugs. The tall kind of mugs that you put coffee or tea into are the worst. You have to get the full width of your hand into a tiny opening to clean the bottom.
- Speaking of, I hate the word “bottom.” Gross.
- I wear earplugs at concerts. If I don’t, my ears ring for a full 24 hours.
- I must squeeze out every last drop of toothpaste from the tube. I’ll retrieve it from the trash if someone throws it out too soon.
- I shut down around 9:00 p.m. It’s like someone hits the “off” switch and I’m incapable of coherent thought and meaningful conversation.
- I clean up while I’m cooking, just so that I can eat dinner without having to look at dirty dishes. If my wife is cooking, I follow her around the kitchen cleaning.
- Speaking of, stuff makes me nervous. If there’s too much clutter around me, I stop what I'm doing and clean until everything is put away, or thrown away.
- I’m super sensitive to smells. I can tell you what you last cooked in your kitchen based upon the smell. Seasonings, side, and main course.
- I can’t do two things at once. Very literally, if I’m making a sandwich while talking on the phone, I stop listening and start spreading the Grey Poupon mustard.
- I don’t like directions when I’m working on a project. I’d rather screw it up and redo it than have someone tell me how to do it.
Like what you've been reading so far? Why stop?
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