Respecting The Contradictions That Make People “People”


We must accommodate “The Paradox.”

Eric Metzgar, anthropologist / explorer


One of the questions I ask students in my UCLA business communication class to consider is: When someone meets you for the first time, what do you think they first notice about you?  How does this make you feel?


A couple of years ago, Alex names changed), one of the participants, wrote in response:

I feel like people usually notice my body. It’s so weird because I wear t-shirts that show off my body but that at the same time I hate being judged by my body. I want to be muscular but not too muscular so It doesn’t look like I am trying – haha. I feel my exterior sometimes is a hindrance and blessing. I sometimes feel like men and women will not see my sweet, sensitive inside because they are not able to get past my exterior.


I was both moved and perplexed – how can you be into showing off your body AND be uncomfortable in showing off your body at the same time?


Ah, but since Alex wrote that reflection, I’ve encountered others who move me and mystify me!

Edmund was studying to become a Marriage and Family therapist. While in the Program, he cheated on his wife with a woman (department secretary) who was twenty-four years old – ten years older than his son.


For years his wife, Gail, had begged him to go into couple’s therapy. He refused as he saw no need for a therapist.

After their divorce, when their son was having a hard time adjusting, Edmund nixed the idea of having him see a counselor. He didn’t see the point.


Deno asked me in a workshop, “What do you do with someone who won’t let you interrupt?”

Midway through my answer, he shut me down with a curt sounding, “Okay, got it. Thanks.” I was taken aback. I smiled and tried to complete my thought. “No, that’s okay. I got it.” I doubted that he “got it” because I hadn’t finished with my explanation.

Later, his boss said that’s what he does – and she thought he might have been referring to her.


Carla is a friend who calls herself a vegetarian but she eats chicken. She doesn’t like the idea of killing cows, but she’s okay with killing chickens.


Sid, the president of a manufacturing company, hired me to help him hone his leadership skills – but – he doesn’t see the problem with urging his managers to lie to customers.


Jeff works in a diagnostic clinic where all eight technicians refuse to be vaccinated because they either “don’t know” what’s in the vaccine or they believe they won’t get Covid again.

Jeff asked me, “How can someone in the medical field not believe in the vaccine?”


My friend Ray recently told me that I am the most emotionally intelligent person he knows. I’m flattered, though most days I don’t feel emotionally intelligent because while I “know” people – I know that I don’t know people.


People have an amazing capacity to leave me feeling gobsmacked – and so I bow before the mystery of people.


Are the folks I mention above emotionally “tone-deaf?” Sure.


But, it’s more than that as “emotionally tone-deaf” is too glib a label.


Fear makes us act out in all sorts of weird ways.

Confident people know and respect this truth.


Confident people know their own “weirdness” and devise workarounds so as not to get trapped in dysfunctional thinking and acting out.


What’s your weirdness? How do you live with it?


Now THAT’s the business of confidence!


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