Friday, March 06, 2009

Stuck in the middle

Why does my world always seem so polarized? I mean, whether it's a relationship gone sour, an organization's leadership butting heads, or friends who just plain dislike each other, lately I always seem to find myself stuck in the middle. While it may be a good thing that so many feel comfortable enough to confide in me, it always puts me on the defensive.

Call me an optimist, but I still think that most people are inherently good people. Yes, Zenith's body-flaunting-boy-crazy mentality annoys the crap out of me, but she's also friendly, caring and fun to hang out with when boys aren't around. Zed may be a dick to the women he dates, but is funny and intellectually stimulating and a supportive friend. If you minimize an individual to having only one personality trait, you ignore all of their redeeming qualities. So I generally choose to see the whole package, which is apparently not the popular approach.

That being said, I recognize the need to vent when something annoys you. This is particularly true with any sort of organization, as those who want to lead are also likely to have strong personalities and bump heads a bit. Yet here I often find myself as the middleman, instead of the injured parties directly interacting, I try to ferry the concerns of the venting one to the one she's speaking about, and try to defend the latter to the former.

Regardless of circumstances, I end up in the middle of a sea of negativity, which starts to impact my mood and thoughts. So what should I do? If I shut down lines of communication that are negative, I lose friends' willingness to share their feelings and frustrations, and mute criticism that could be constructive organizationally. If I don't, my role of cheerleader/telephone will continue to wear on my psyche. All I know is I hate being stuck in the middle.


Avital said...

Two different points -

1. There is nothing wrong with seeing the person as a whole. But by ignoring negative traits, you are doing the exact same thing as those that ignore the positive. Seeing the whole person does not mean only viewing their positive traits - it means seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly and accepting that person regardless. It does not mean you don't point out to Zenith that she could be a little more attentive to her female friends even when boys are around or that you can't tell Zed that he's a dick to to the women he's with even though he's such a good friend.

2. As for venting, you can't be everyone's person. Certain people tend to get into that means you are a good listener! But that also means you get stuck in the middleman and guess what? The messenger often gets shot. Instead, you should be encouraging the person you are speaking with to talk their concerns to the person.

Kirk said...

Some things to recognize about yourself: you pride yourself on being a good friend and a good listener (and you are) as well as someone who sees things more completely. I don't think it would make you happy if you just shut out your friends. Personally, I would suggest just being open and honest with people, and try not to let others' rocks (to use Ehnes' terminology) weigh you down.

There's nothing wrong with caring for other people, but be aware of how you're helping them. If Zenith and Zed are constantly repeating their mistakes and complaining about the same situations over and over, maybe you're not really helping them.

Keep being honest. Tell them who they are and what they're doing and have them understand the repercussions that accompany the choices that they make. And keep trying to let them handle their own problems without really making them yours.

Another thing to keep in mind is that by ferrying and being in the middle you’re giving each side an outlet to project onto you and possibly preventing the two sides from communicating directly.

Somewhat of a side note, in my usual disorganized fashion: The best and closest friendships you'll have will be two way streets. Those are the friends that will be concerned for you, understand how you feel and how the things they say and do will affect you, as well as be willing to allow you to vent and regain your sanity when needed.

Yusef said...

Uh....mind your business. People confide in you, that doesn't mean that you are the messenger and it doesn't make it your business. If your friends want the information to be ferried they'd do it themselves.

As for the negative thoughts. You wouldn't pay them as much attention if you didn't feel the need to rectify the situation. I find people's rants humorous and entertaining and I hope people feel the same way about mine. It in no way should be about my negativity being absorbed by you. The negativity is worse felt when someone is upset and just standing by you I think. Answer's long enough. Veil gluck!

Yusef said...

The real question is: Were YOU just venting in this blog or did you REALLY want an answer?