When I meet someone, who knows what they might believe? In all likelihood they believe in God. (In this country I’d say about a 70 to 80 percent chance.) There’s at least a fifty fifty shot their political party affiliation is different than my own. There’s a high probability they believe in at least one idea that I’d consider wonky. (Bigfoot? Probed by aliens? Michele Bachmann is human? Sarah Palin is a decent hunter because she uses a helicopter?) If you think of the political spectrum as a grid, the odds drop even lower, perhaps 1/16th, that we are in the same general neighborhood.
I don’t worry about any of that stuff. I base my opinion of a person on things like how they act, what they say, if there are nice, sound pleasant and reasonable, rub me the right way, etc.
Sometimes I like someone and then I learn later about one of their unsavory beliefs. So what if we don’t agree on the removal of dams or they hate the spotted owl so much they would slit their throats on sight? It doesn’t usually impact if I like them or not.
True, some beliefs are so out there they are instant game changers. Sorry, but I just can’t hang with someone who thinks it should be legal for females to marry at eight years old or enjoys eating live babies.
That extreme stuff aside, most of us are well intentioned people and just having varying opinions on what that means. And that’s usually okay.
I guess since I don’t have a litmus test for friendship, I don’t worry about a person’s beliefs before deciding if I like them or not. A friend once told me about moving to a small town in the deep South. According to my friend, upon meeting someone the first time, they blast away with, “What church do you go to?” If they didn’t like your response you were immediately shunned. Wow. Life’s too short to treat each other like that. At least that’s what I believe.
The flip side of this, I think, is the over-sharing of beliefs before you know your audience. Imagine meeting someone, perhaps your new boss, and saying, “Nice to meet you. You seem like a decent fellow. Just as long as you ain’t one of those XYZ-icans. Man, they get me so angry. I hate those bastards. I’d like to kill ’em all!”
“As a matter of fact, I’m an XYZ-ican. You’re fired.”
In psychology there’s the concept of the risky disclosure. This is the sharing of personal information that might not be received well. It’s a vulnerable act. It requires a bit of social awareness, deftness and timing. Risky disclosures too early in a relationship can be a giant freak out and, quite honestly, just a little creepy.
When it comes to personal beliefs, I believe there is a similar phenomenon that relates to the early and over-sharing of beliefs. I call it gumption disclosures.
An example of this is what our short-term employee did above. Share your opinions too strongly, too early, and in the wrong place and time and the results can be disastrous.
There’s one more angle to this and that’s if a person’s engagement in gumption disclosures is situational. If their usage of gumption disclosures is variable based on their perceived power in any given situation, then that person is clearly delusional with a high probability of douchiness.
If you’re able to keep your opinions to yourself when meeting a boss yet let them fly when meeting your tenants, in all likelihood you are a massive douchebag. The difference, your perceived amount of power in any social situation, is the key indicator here.
I’ll never forget my former landlord. Mainly because she still emails me her shit. When we met, after knowing me a grand total of sixty seconds, she began to lament the existence of Barack Obama. She hated that guy! She never stopped to consider that I might be a Democrat or that I may have voted for him. Twice. She let fly with all sorts of extreme opinions.
During the time I’ve know her she’s been a kindly old lady and nice in every way imaginable except for one. She’s regaled me with the dangers facing America because Obama was building his own private army. She explained that he would never leave office after his second term.
In all the years she’s known me not once did it cross her mind that her beliefs, opinions and statements might be offensive to me. She never bother to learn who I am before the sharing of her opinions.
Now that she’s my former landlord, like I said, the onslaught continues. Yesterday’s email brought a special bit of hate in the form of a skunk joke about Obama. “Black and white.” Get it? Viscous and vile. Now I get to add the “scumbag racist” tag next to her name in my address book.
The bigger the asshole the less awareness they have that they are the asshole. And the more asshole they behave.