I’ve been home for a couple of weeks now from my third term at Waterloo. I’m home now in Nova Scotia. My time has been fabulous. I went to my summerhouse in Margaree where I hung out with family, met some new people, now I’m home home on the Mira River in south eastern Cape Breton. I have a couple of weeks to go before the start of my second year at Waterloo (and given that I’m doing very well both academically and socially now, I only have feelings of optimism for the new year ahead).
I have talked a lot about how perfectionism has influenced me in previous posts especially negatively, but here I would like to talk about a positive aspect of it. I believe there at least a few good positives about being a perfectionist, but the one that I would like to list here comes from the issue of sensitivity. As a perfectionist, criticism doesn’t come easily for me to accept. And likewise I sometimes avoid hesitate or don’t make critical comments of others’ actions or words. I like to think about what I say before I actually say it. This is true in general for me given my slow processing speed because I’m autistic. But it’s even more prevalent for me when I feel that I’d like to make some kind of a critical comment.
It doesn’t matter how outrageous it is either. I once knew someone who said to me that he believed in Creationism and that evolution was false. While I felt annoyed to hear this, I didn’t jump at the guy’s throat either. Instead I told him in simple words that I thought the view wasn’t right and we left it at that and didn’t return to the subject again. Another example is last winter when a few of us graduate math students got together to celebrate a birthday. I forget exactly how it happened, but we got into the topic of how people meet each other for dating and one of us made the comment about not understanding why people used dating sites with the follow up question of why they can’t meet someone in “real life”. Now as someone who has no issue with using dating sites (certainly if it hasn’t been given me dates, it’s certainly been giving me a new friend here and there), I could’ve argued with this person, but I chose not to. I didn’t know how many others would take my side and I didn’t want to take the risk of standing out and looking foolish. I also didn’t want this particular person standing out and looking foolish either. Besides we soon left the topic and it wasn’t like it was that important either.
Being sensitive in this respect certainly has its advantages. You’re not likely to piss people off or repel others. I’m not saying that we should become totally passive (sometimes I am so) and never argue for a point of view, but we should be careful of how it is done or if it should be done at all. After all, if you seriously want to persuade someone of something or at least make them see a point of view, you’re not going to achieve that by being overly emotional or dramatic about it and/or pretend you know everything you talk about. Chances are you’re just going to make them hate your position even more. Even if your reasoning is correct and flawless, you still have to control how you say it to the other person or even how much of it you say. The philosophy society at the University of Waterloo posted a youtube video about this. Here’s the link for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmP9XozKEV0. It’s called Don’t be a Dick and has an astronomer talk about how arguing or criticising too forcefully usually backfires. Fortunately given I’m a sensitive autistic, I find this advice easy to take.