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Judge Not

One thing that I’ve found over the years is that people are generally really bad at judging themselves. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told something about myself that I would never have considered a defining factor – but when enough people say the same thing, there’s got to be something to it.

Apparently I’m scary (that’s the most common one). I’ve never been able to see that one, especially since I’m one of the most conflict-averse people on the planet. I’m also ridiculously stubborn, though, and when it comes to something I think needs to happen or be said I tend to go all mulish and not back down. Maybe that’s what gives the “scary” vibe?

What I have figured out is that people who are stressed lose all their “polite” filters. Someone who is overwhelmed is going to show who they are without any of the things that typically get self-censored because it’s not polite. I can guarantee that the more stressed I am the worse my language gets, and the more sarcastic I get. If I hit vitriolic, I’m probably on the edge of a barrage of language most foul. That’s actually my protective layer, which lives under the assorted filters I use to stay more or less polite. What’s under the protections is the – horror of horrors – nice person who mostly wants to just get on with life and hang out with friends now and then.

Suffice to say it takes rather a lot for me to lose the protections.

Any character is going to have the same kind of traits. They’ll have a surface set of filters that they use so they can keep themselves from violating whatever the manners of their world dictate, ranging from the highest level of society they frequent through to the least couth. Under that will be a set of rather less sophisticated filters that you could call family manners – the way they act when they’re in private, or with people they trust.

Those who have been hurt in some way or bullied will have a protective layer to keep unexpected attacks on their person at bay. Some people have a stoneface to keep attackers from realizing they’ve hit anything sensitive. Others will crumble at the first sign of hostility so nothing more sensitive gets touched. Some will play up a supposed weakness to hide the real one. And some will go the way I did, with a heavy layer of bitter sarcasm – which is one of the more active defenses, because it doubles as a counterattack. Or at times, a pre-emptive one.

Of course, since people have real issues judging themselves, they also often don’t know what their vulnerabilities are, which means the defensive mechanisms they build up tend either to not cover enough, or to cover everything and not let anything else get in. Some truly interesting character development can come out of that kind of mess, which in turn can lead to all manner of misjudgments that will drive a plot interesting places (and an author insane).

I just wish the Author On High would quit with the plotline that goes “take tightly wound character and stress the heck out of them then watch the fun.”

13 Comments
  1. Hmmm… I go into watchful waiting mode. Some women seem to think its a retreat, because I’m not talking. Most men understand I’m saving energy, waiting for the first swing.

    All unmercifully stressful, and I avoid such situations at all costs. Living in the country 500 yards from the nearest human is adequate. If it was a mile I’d be happier.

    Sometimes I think a little more human interaction would be nice, but then I go buy gas and the 30 seconds with the cashier fills my buffer for the day.

    September 26, 2019
    • Kate #

      This would be why I use automated cashier systems most of the time. I do not have a high tolerance for… well, most things, actually.

      September 26, 2019
  2. Covering up something . . . . Oh! Quick, back to the stuck novel!

    September 26, 2019
    • Kate #

      Heh, heh, heh…. If it helps unstick the novel, it did good.

      September 27, 2019
  3. I’m another one who outsiders call scary. I think it’s partly because my face is built so that unless I concentrate on my expression, it settles into a frown. Plus I don’t try to hide my knowledge in my field. That intimidates, and it’s a short step from “scary smart” to “scary.” Especially with introverts. “He’s quiet. He must be planning something.”

    September 26, 2019
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Outsiders is the key, isn’t it? I keep forgetting that just because I don’t find someone scary doesn’t mean that 1.) they’re not, or 2.) other people won’t find them scary.

      My world is filled with friends who light up my life, many of whom are mentally earmarked as “gives great hugs!” and “big teddybear!” and “has the best laugh!”

      The fact that I know two redheaded super-smart female pilots who are just as geeky as me, well, ‘scary’ never enters into the equation for either one of them. It just makes me giggle and posit that I should perhaps henna my hair to fit in!

      …I must admit, though, that just because someone’s not dangerous “to me” doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. I would not like to be on the receiving end of the wrath of my friends (or my husband.)

      September 26, 2019
      • Outsiders is the key, isn’t it? I keep forgetting that just because I don’t find someone scary doesn’t mean that 1.) they’re not, or 2.) other people won’t find them scary.

        *snickers* Oh, gad, my uncles….

        To ME, I’ve got the guy who is a peacemaker (the self-maiming way), the geek who writes really flowery poetry, and the crazy-zany guy with one eye who is an utter nut but hates even the idea of hurting someone beyond stupid words.

        OTHER PEOPLE see this looming, scowling guy, a scowling, muscled guy who loves sharp things too much, and this HOLY FREAKING HECK HE ESCAPED FROM A HORROR MOVIE STARING A CRAZY VIETNAM VET!!!!11!1 who are all freaking hairy, walking bricks who shrug off hits that will knock over most people, and they all walk in a way that screams “I can and will walk right through you if I need to.”
        (very thick bones, and thighs like a horse, plus foot issues and grew up being the short guys is my best guess for that)

        September 27, 2019
    • Kate #

      Now that makes sense. I’m about as introverted as it’s possible to be (seriously – every time I’ve taken the Meyers-Briggs test, I’ve completely maxed the Introvert ratings) and mostly very quiet – until something hits my “oh I’m interested in this” buttons and I suddenly switch on and you can’t shut me up. I guess that could seem scary to someone who doesn’t realize this is Kate-normal.

      September 27, 2019
  4. 23 skidoo

    September 27, 2019
  5. Walk away…

    September 27, 2019
  6. I’ve been described as “unapproachable” at times, and I’ve heard people say they about making me angry, and that they are afraid of me because of it.

    On the other hand, people who know me a little better and have been around me have described me as “the most laid-back person ever”.

    Funny thing is, I have a temper. It caused me a lot of problems in school when I was a kid, but I eventually learned how to control it. I am also a rather large dude. 6 foot 3 inches, and I weigh nearly 300 lbs. so that might be part of the fear, especially in “smaller” people (I swear some of the people I work with might just be hobbits.)

    September 27, 2019
  7. Well, I can tell you one thing about myself.
    My verbal controls also erode the more angry I get.
    But if I’m pissed off enough, I stop talking altogether.
    That’s when it would behoove the object of my ire to find somewhere else to be pronto, like the next state, or country over.

    September 27, 2019
  8. I’ve never been able to see that one, especially since I’m one of the most conflict-averse people on the planet. I’m also ridiculously stubborn, though, and when it comes to something I think needs to happen or be said I tend to go all mulish and not back down. Maybe that’s what gives the “scary” vibe?

    My guess?

    Because you hate conflict, you don’t engage in it lightly.
    And you want it over with as quickly as possible.
    But, because you believe a thing must be done– once you’re in, you’re in.

    So, from an outside viewpoint– here’s this person who just randomly flies off the handle and then WON’T JUST QUIT.

    It doesn’t matter that you spent time– sometimes days or weeks– doing polite “no, thanks” or “I would rather not say” or polite subject changing, or even that you flatly said “please, I don’t want to discuss this.”
    Because a lot of folks do polite-noise-making-just-say-whatever and…honestly, I don’t know what they’re going off of, maybe body language? So when you aren’t confronting, your body language is a polite, neutral expression.
    Then holy **** all of a sudden when they were doing absolutely nothing unusual you randomly flip out, all they did was state something that you had never objected to before, you’re so unreasonable!

    Based off of watching folks get shocked at my sister, who was much more social that I could ever dream of being, upset people because she would “suddenly” blow up, when they decided that her saying ‘no’ for the last six months meant that if they just DID whatever they’d been asking her to do, she’d go along with it. Basically, THEY thought she’d been a doormat, and were horrified when she wouldn’t lay there to be stepped on; SHE knew that she’d simply been polite and they hadn’t crossed any lines, and she even told them what the lines were. Point-blank.

    September 27, 2019

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