I get my energy from people. I have a yearning need to have people look at me and talk with me and listen to me talk. That’s the way I am and I love it.
But it gets people like me in trouble sometimes because we get all giddy and warm when people approve of us. And all mopey and weepy when people criticize. It’s usually not because the people around us are mean or anything–we just have a hard time figuring out how to handle disappointment.
And that puts us in the dangerous position of being influenced by The Neutrals.
Neutrals are a class of relationship that has been empowered by social media. You can tell you are in a Neutral relationship when the best interaction you have with a person is silence. Silence is the Neutral’s stamp of approval on your life. So long as they don’t talk to you, you’re doing something right.
But when you step out of line, when your words or lifestyle fall short of their standards, then they let you know. Gently, of course. Mindfully, even. Hell, they might even be dead-on-right in whatever they are saying. And they form everywhere–at work, at church, online, at school. Everywhere.
If many of your relationships are Neutral, you will find it hard to be yourself in those venues because your self-expression risks waking the Neutrals. And if you are not careful you will find your conduct dictated by people who ignore you at the best of times and oppose you when you step out of line.
The Internet makes many relationships potentially in The Neutral. And I guess I could whine about that. Maybe get some cathartic victim-talk going on. But I’m thirty-one now and, like Nick, too old to lie to myself and call it honor. The problem isn’t with Neutral relationships at all. They are a partially a product of our tech and partially a product of well-meaning lovely people who just don’t have time to invest in every single one of their eight hundred Facebook friends.
No, the solution isn’t some victim rant. It’s not the melodramatic pulling of hair and wonderment as to why the world can’t understand us. The world never understood us–any of us. It never will. It’s too big, and so are we. The best way to deal with a Neutral relationship is to not deal with it at all.
What do you get when you behave the way they want you to? Silence from The Neutrals.
What do you get when you behave the way your heart leads you? Opposition (maybe) from The Neutrals. Stirring approval from your heart. Constructive empowerment from your invested friends.
It’s not hard to see which path gives you more.
The Neutrals are useful–sometimes they have great points to make. But they are only useful for information. They should never be the reason you do (or don’t do) anything.