It was an innocent road trip. Four acquaintances, fans of Jack Johnson, hopped into Chester’s SUV for a three-day escape from San Francisco to Napa Valley. By the end of the experience, three friends knew they’d never travel with Chester again. It was a shame. Adorable Chester, burdened by an idiosyncrasy, alienated three potential friends.
Everyone wants to feel special. Some tattoo or pierce themselves. Others are motivated by hairstyles, moustaches, building muscles or following hobbies. Feeling unique and authentic are passionate pursuits. Yet, allow one genuine, but annoying idiosyncratic behavior encroach on someone else’s homeostasis and alienation sets in.
Chester’s idiosyncrasy? Mysaphobia (aka germophobia). Indeed, germs are no one’s friend. Yet, Chester made it an unavoidable anxiety, as if he were swinging a gladiator’s spiked ball at the end of a chain. The group couldn’t go anywhere without feeling they were stepping on his Purelled toes. A bag of chips had to be poured into individual plates because of what he described as, “feces covered hands.” Breaking bread as a group was a version of Cirque de Soleil. His SUV was guarded like the inside of a Hazmat suit.
Chester, 45, is handsome, friendly, kind, generous, fun and adventurous. Yet, he is frustrated much of the time. He is single and struggling in life. Like the rest of us, he will find his way. But his journey will be burdensome if he continues to alienate others.
Being special is important. Having idiosyncrasy’s is normal. Where, pray tell, is the line between acceptable and repulsive?
Let’s say you have an idiosyncrasy such as being blunt. You don’t intend to be cruel. You don’t mean to offend. But you can leave a swath of hurt feelings every time you open your pie hole.
Or, your idiosyncrasy is being an introvert. This perfectly acceptable trait doesn’t mean you’re ignoring someone. But the message being interpreted is arrogance or distrust. Extroverts can be the victim of the diametric interpretations of insecurity or self-centeredness.
The answer lies in blending before bleeding. One of the life skills gained from learning aikido, or most other martial arts, is the art of blending with an oncoming force. Instead of striking or blocking an opponent, blending with the force will avoid any injury. If the oncoming force is insignificant, then there is no harm. If the oncoming force appears overwhelming, then blending is the key.
If you’re a passionate extrovert or patient introvert then allow people to know what you’re all about. Communicate your intent with others first. If you’re blunt, then preface your intent before your gums start flapping. Whatever your idiosyncrasy, blend with communication not defensiveness or counter attacks.
In Chester’s case, he never attempted to temper his idiosyncrasy by blending his needs. For example, comfortably admitting he was “something of a germophobe but never wanting the idiosyncrasy to impinge on the road trip” would have done wonders. He could have brought his own little bag of chips. Used hand sanitizer without a fuss.
Blend before bleeding.