I’ll cut to the chase. We all play favorites. It’s not a “thing” limited to certain places or relationships. We do it all the time and we do it everywhere. It happens in families (you know it does). It happens at work. It happens at church. It happens in clubs, societies, sororities, classrooms, emergency rooms, waiting rooms – hell, I’ve even seen it happen at the county dump when the cute blonde in the sporty car was waved ahead of me to empty trash. Call it “favoritism.” Call it “the good old boy system.” Call it “cliques” or “popularity contests.” Call it whatever you want. It happens.
I know everybody reading this is shouting and saying “oh hell no.” Oh hell yes. Let’s drop the pretense and b.s. for just a few minutes. I promise not to go on too long and you can resume the “formalities” momentarily. Besides, I’m trying to help you here. At least in my own, strip-off-the-nonsense-and-call-it-like-it-is way. And remember, I said we’re all guilty. Me too. You too. Everybody too. Even my birds have their “favorite humans.” This could well precede not only time and space, but all of creation. Partiality happens. There’s no stopping it.
It’s a simple fact that yes, we are predisposed to react more favorably to some people and situations than others. It’s personality – some just go together better than others. It’s also life experience – we relate better to those that have faced similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle. There are complex nature/nurture forces at play that make us more receptive and gracious toward some people than others. Likewise, there are some types we throw up our guard against. I mentioned in the last entry that it miffs me that charisma wins over character so much – that’s because I’ve been the victim of people using charisma to hide serious character flaws several times. Their “God bless us every one” demeanor was hiding a nasty temper bent on utter annihilation. So naturally, I don’t trust “popular” people because I see the red lightsaber just waiting to stab me.
That being said, it happens. Despite modern science, I doubt we ever unlock the secrets of the human personality. It’s too complex and this is one of those things that you can’t account for. We naturally like some people better than others. And conversely, we naturally dislike those that strike us unfavorably. There’s no cure for it. You can’t fix it and people are going to play favorites. It’s going to happen. Now here’s where we run into the problem:
Nobody likes being a “not favorite.” Anytime you complement somebody, anytime you recognize somebody, anytime you put someone on a pedestal or offer public praise or thanks, then other people will feel left out and perceive it as a slight. Because no man is an island and no matter how wonderful Mr. or Miss Wonderful is, it’s unlikely they did it on their own. And, sad to say, some people are very good at getting other people to do everything and having the credit funneled directly to their feet. But that’s another entry for another day. Recognition – and especially public recognition – can open a nasty can of worms that you don’t even know until they’re crawling up your leg. At best, the people you failed to recognize will quit on you, and you’re setting your favorite to the test of picking up the load. At worst, they’ll turn on you. And God help you if it’s a former favorite that you’ve changed your mind about and they know stuff. Ouch.
So does that mean public recognition of good service should be banned? Not at all. I’m just saying that if you want the dog to stay in the yard, then you need to throw them a bone. And not just the head of the pack – everyone in the yard needs a bone. So if you’re going to thank people, be sure that you take off what I call the “swell guy” blinders and open your eyes to everybody. Don’t hold one person up unless you have darn strong justification to do it. And going the extra mile to find out what speaks to a person can also help. Some people don’t want public recognition. My colleagues are smart enough to know an occasional “thank you,” showing interest in my writing, and a bar-b-que luncheon once or twice a year will keep me from squawking like a pissed off parakeet. Which is hilarious, because it didn’t take them long to figure that out and my former colleagues never did get it. Some things are a mystery because you choose not to put forth the two seconds to notice, eh?
My point is this – we all play favorites, but it helps to check yourself every now and then. Showing favoritism is generally considered impolite,; and I know we don’t care for etiquette in the 21st century, but this is a formality that perhaps needs to be reinstated. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I was open to what types I’m not partial to, but I didn’t mention what types I am partial to? No way I’m telling that. But at least you know what raises my defenses, so there’s my attempt at leveling the playing field. Now you know a trigger to avoid with me.
That being said, it might behoove you to quietly put your favorites in your inner circle and exercise discretion in your dealings. Don’t let it show. Throw the non-favorites something every now and then. And for goodness sake, if you do a public acknowledgement and get wind that somebody feels slighted, please take Dale Carnige’s advice to humbly apologize and rectify the situation. Digging in your heels and fighting to justify yourself won’t win friends or influence people. Just say “sorry, I am grateful for you and will be glad to acknowledge it with an apology for leaving you out,” do it, and let it go. That’s character and will close out the situation much faster that “well I did it because they did la de dah de dah and where were you then?”
And as for the rest of us, give us a bar-b-que luncheon. Yea, that’ll shut us up. For a minute.
That’s all today. You may now resume the formalities of pretending like we modern folks don’t do this crap.