Geography of the Mind

People can be depended on to act consistently...

Consistency is a good quality to have in your personal behavior, particularly if it is acting consistently decent with your interactions with other people. Communication and interacting well with other people is an art and requires a certain effort and being true to your own self. Consistency though doesn't mean always acting the same and that everyone acts well consistently.

We all have moments when we act in ways that we wish we didn't. I can think of a recent incident where I was scathingly rude to someone who consistently never follows up or does what he is asked to do. My actions were uncalled for however but even more so, a waste of time and negative energy. Why? Because I know that he is consistently lazy and will never do the job he is paid to do in any reasonable sense of timeliness or completeness.

When I was thinking about this later, reasoning why I flared up at him when I know he's never going to do anything he's supposed to do on time or completely, I recognized that both of us were acting consistently in our own behavior. Also I realized that acting consistently doesn't always mean acting consistently good but can also mean acting consistently bad.

In my case anyone who knows and works with me knows that generally I am usually calm and even-handed, if anything some people consider me too calm since I rarely get frantic over problems, because in my mind that does no good. What they also know is likewise I can be counted on when someone repeatedly does the same thing over and over again that irritates me, no matter how much I've tried to correct the situation, if they continue to do it, I'll finally lose it. It's never pretty or done lightly either when I do.

"God deliver you from a man with a very long patience, when he finally loses it."

In this instance I think most people would say that I consistently act as a decent guy who does what he says he's going to do. The person I was dealing with consistently acts as if every day at work is an inconvenience and his actions at work reflect his entire character, at or away from work, and he can be counted on to not care about doing anything fully or well. It's irrelevant to me his personal life is a wreck due to it, I just expect him to be inconsistent with his character at work and do everything correctly, which I've finally concluded is unrealistic.

The key is that people can be depended on to act consistently the same, whether it's reliably or unreliably. People are pretty persistent in their character and actions. There are always exceptions to their behavior, for example my habit of losing my patience after a long period, although I'm generally considered very patient. Occasionally that lazy person just actually may do some things energetically and on time.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, JR.

    I like that you take the idea of consistency and don't argue that it's always a virtuous quality, because it seems to usually be held up in that way. I think it entails both good and not-so-great traits in a person...and I think that's a good thing; I can't imagine dealing with someone who was completely inconsistent, but I think anyone who's completely the positive side of consistency would worry me more. I tend to get nervous around people who never "flip out" (for lack of a better phrase) at least a little every once in a while. What seems to be impossibly complete kindness and understanding always seems to me like someone who's gonna read his Alpha-Bits some morning and head for the bell tower. People are complex things, and I figure if you only see the yin, the yang is probably pretty pissed at being hidden.

    I think it's a safe bet that if you could take a large enough sample of someone's behavior, you could pretty well estimate what you'll be dealing with. I think working with people for a while probably gives a pretty good indication, but I also it's not always a pleasant revelation. I can speak from relatively recent experience of people I've worked with whom I wished would prove to have qualities that they didn't possess. In these cases, only later did I realize that when people walk up to you and ask, "how can you stand it?" that maybe you are missing something. And missing it consistently.

    I'm pretty sure I've never paraphrased Ronald Reagan before, but something that sounds like something he once said seems appropriate: Things aren't complex. They're simple. But they're hard.

    Very cool post!