October 15, 2012, 7:00 AM
The Dating Corollary: Stop Trying To Change Me
Originally posted 2012-05-08 10:48:31.
As mentioned in the introduction (and you read the introduction, right? No? Go read it over here), in the first follow up (and you read that one too, right? No? Go read it over here), then in the next one about counter-offers over here, and we even covered how to handle a break up over here…we’re going to chat about some of the similarities between the wild world of dating, looking for a job, hiring someone, and just networking in general.
You want to see exasperation and annoyance? Look into the eyes of a guy as his wife, girlfriend, significant other or whatever hands him a shirt and says “Here, I bought this for you, I think it’ll look great on you.”
It’s the look that says: “You knew who I was when you met me, dammit. I don’t wear plaid. Sweater vests cause me to break out in hives if they come within six inches of my skin. The closest I’ve come to salsa dancing is watching Lambada: The Forbidden Dance back in 1990.”
And, of course the underlying message: Stop trying to change me…
We are who we are.
We’re also very up-front about who we are.
Differences are what make us individuals. Each person is different, and each group is different.
We always tell people that if you’re looking for a room full of dudes in three piece blue suits and matching ties…you’re going to hate us. Just like if you’re a guy who likes women, then you’re probably not going to be interested in the guy who’s hitting on you. Sure, it’s a compliment and that’s great and all (you’re not Missing The Point Guy, are you? Of course you’re not.) but it’s just not your thing. And if you like tall guys, then a short guy is going to have a hard time getting you to notice him. And if you like blondes, the brunette’s probably flying under your radar.
All of which is perfectly fine. Everyone has their own preferences, their own likes and dislikes. It’s what makes the world work.
Where you run into problems is when you start dating the brunette…but demand she dyes her hair blonde. Or force the short guy into lifts.
The moral of the story here is that you have to accept people for who they are, and groups for what they are.
Case in point – about every two months, we get a few emails from people complaining that our events always take place in bars. There’s always a reason for their complaint – they’re in AA, they don’t like bars, something - but the end result is always the same: “Why can’t you have an event at a [x]?!“ …with [x] being “a church”, “a coffee shop”, “a library”, “book store”, or something else.
Because that’s not who we are, that’s why. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s fine…but don’t expect us to become something that we’re not just for you.
Not that we haven’t evolved over the years, but there are certain core principles that we have to hold on to in order to still be “us”. Besides – we’ve already told you that those three little words – “I can change” – are something that should send you running into the night. Possibly screaming with terror.
Some changes are good, some aren’t. Some can be handled in the context of staying true to yourself, some can’t. It’s up to you to figure out which you’re willing to handle. Pink Slip Parties? Made sense to us because of the nature of the group and where it was heading. Letting Multi Level Marketing Guy come to our events? No way in hell.
Likewise, if you know you have no interest in driving downtown each day, you probably aren’t that interested in talking to the recruiters from Quicken Loans. If you want to stay technical, then don’t let a recruiter hard sell you into a PM or analyst role…and if you’ve been away from codeslinging for a while, don’t try to hard sell a recruiter that you’re a hardcore developer.
In the three years since we shared out Lessons From A Child’s Toy, the core concept remains the same: be who you are, accept who you are, and play to your strengths instead of trying to be a square peg pounded into a round hole. Job search, on the job…doesn’t matter. If your current boss comes to you and asks you to do something way outside of your skillset and comfort zone, you’d better be willing and able to voice your concerns, or be willing to accept the consequences of not doing so.
If you let that sweater vest invade your closet, you’re just asking for trouble. It’ll be there…mocking you…every time you walk in. You’ll have to deal with getting asked why you never wear it. Sure, you only see crazy Aunt Mildred once a year at Christmas, and so it’s easy enough to blow her off with a lame excuse as to why you’re not wearing that hand-crafted nightmare capable of inducing epileptic seizures in people that she gave you two years ago (even if it did win you $50 and a covered bar tab on Ugly Sweater Night at the bar)…but isn’t there the slightest concern that she thinks you actually like it and will make you another one?
It’s a lot harder to dodge your wife’s questions about the pink shirt she bought you, Skippy.
If she’s always been happiest in her forty seven cent thrift store sundresses, then you can’t get mad when she doesn’t want to play Barbie and go gown shopping for some black tie affair you’ve been roped into next week. If you’re a steak and chops kinda guy, then she really can’t be too terribly surprised when you’re not enthused by the mixed bowl of lawn grass she tried to pass off as “dinner” last week.
It’s like those two circles over there. As long as there’s plenty of green, you’re good. As long as what’s in the blue or yellow doesn’t make you full of irrational hatred and rage, you’re good. And if not, well, go find someone else to overlap.
Now, back in context – every relationship you have…work, personal, professional, networking…will have concentric circles like that. Once both parties realize that the blue and yellow will always be there, everyone will be much happier about life. So if you find yourself unhappy with a group, a website, a person…either figure out how to live with it, or move on. It’s that simple. You can’t “fake it ’til you make it” long term, either – sure, you can b.s. your way into a job by talking enough buzzwords to get it…but eventually, they’ll figure out what’s up and you’ll be gone. And sure, you can do a little googling to weasel yourself a first date with that “urban creations” fanatic, but by the time you get halfway through that first “modern art” show, your true colors (pardon the pun) will inevitably show through…and you’ll start mocking, and it’ll be over.
Not that flings aren’t fun…but networking is about the long-haul, folks…not a one night stand.
The lesson, in case you missed it along the way is always the same – be yourself. Don’t try and be something that you’re not, personally or professionally, and try to find like-minded people to associate yourself with, and you’ll find far less friction in your life. Let you be you. Let them be them. If there’s a match, great…explore it to the fullest potential that you can at the time. If not, don’t force it.
Don’t Be That Guy.