Thursday, June 12, 2014

Far Afield (your e-mail part something or other)

First off is Eric Barrett, who is far, far wiser than I will ever be:
I once had problems with a roofing company.  It eventually escalated all the way to the top of the company and the President came out to inspect the issue.  As I was standing outside waiting for him I see this ginormous (it's a unit of scientific measurement) truck drive past my house, then slowly turn around.  I thought, "oh this isn't going to go well."

About 2 minutes later he pulls into my neighbors driveway.  Now this truck was a sight to behold.  The hood of this truck must have been close to 6 feet off the ground.  And it had a custom "ladder" with three steps to climb into the cab of the truck.  The windows were tinted completely black.  And the tires were as over-sized as they were tall.  I'm sure it got about 35 feet to the gallon.  

As I watched the door open, out climbed a guy who must have stood no more than 5' 5".  And every ounce of him was filled with short man syndrome.  It was one of the least professional and least productive conversations I've ever had with anyone.  Contractor or otherwise.  And the whole time, all I could think was "overcompensating."

But being a psychologist has advantages.  I recognized that he was feeling insecure and being a good head taller than him was not helping my negotiations.  So I changed my body language, spoke slower, and took 3 steps away from him, which made me appear shorter.  

Almost immediately he said, "Well, maybe you do have a point..." and we got some resolution to our issue.  

I'm convinced if I stood next to him, I'd still be in my yard arguing!

Human behavior is fascinating.  So many of our theories in psychology are based on the assumption that people are rational.  Yet as GK Chesterton once said, "My problem with life is not that it is rational, nor that it is irrational...but that it is almost rational."

We're all influenced by psychological bias.  Most of the time we don't know it.  We like people because they are similar to us (Similar to Me Bias).  We remember the most outlandish examples of behavior (Primacy) or the last thing to happen to us (Recency).  We judge things based on the order we experience things - which is why old classics rarely hold up as well when we go back to play them (Contrast Error).  Even how we hand out evaluations of games, people, movies etc... can be influenced by whether we're personally lenient (Leniency Error), like everything to be "average" (Central Tendency Error), or are so enamored with a person / actor / director / product *cough* Apple *cough* that we just think everything is great (Halo Error).

I could go on.  But GK Chesterton was a wise man.  We're never as rational or irrational as we appear to be.  And that's what's either fun or frustrating about humanity, depending on your perspective.

Next, Garth Pricer:
When someone is aggressive or domineering, that’s normally as far as it goes as a descriptor. It’s usually only if the person also happens to be below average height that we choose to rationalize those personality traits as being a consequence of stature. In general, men of short stature are caricatured as being less than men. 

Aggressive and domineering people are also generally annoying and disruptive... I think one defense mechanism in dealing with people like that involves unconsciously finding things to diminish them somehow. Mentally characterizing them as a yapping Chihuahua and attributing their temperament to their height is definitely one way, but I’ve also heard people say that the person is probably compensating for anything from hair loss to deficiencies below the belt.

This last bit is from brenty, and it's tremendously thoughtful:
Reading everyone else's responses in your posts about Napoleon Complex got me thinking:

This may be something deeply rooted in us genetically to some extent. I am not short (I don't think -- I'm 5'8" and don't really feel that I'm seen as short), but I do know feeling singled out. 

I didn't know why for a long time, but I was always picked on for being different. I have Asperger's Syndrome, and while I don't think I look particularly different, people have always picked up on the fact that I am and treated me as such. Sometimes this is harmless, but often it is very unpleasant. 

I can only imagine what it would be like to be obviously, visibly different. I have always hated crowds as it is. They make me feel anxious and overwhelmed. And whether in a crowd or not, humans are animals, and there is probably an element of fight or flight involved. No creature wants to be the prey. 

In nature, the sickly or weak members of the group are separated and make an easy target for predators. I've always been an easy target socially, so I can imagine what those who are physically different might go through. 

It's a double edged sword: both being drawn to those of an ideal physique and being repelled by perceived deficiencies works against the outcasts of all species. I don't presume that humans are much different when it comes down to it. After all, it makes sense. And I've been on the business end if that stick enough that it seems crystal clear from my perspective.  

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