Sunday, 11 April 2010

You Don't Have To Like People To Like Them

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party

No, not a mistake, I know what I said there.
Let me explain.

There were eight of us to lunch with a couple who had invited us to their house for the first time. We had met a few times before, had sat at the same table even, just never in our own homes. So the invitation did not come completely out of the blue, but we hadn’t really been expecting one either.

We arrived to find other couples we knew, the host offered wine and the conversation began in a relaxed and amiable fashion. From the beginning, we found that we shared very few of the opinions of the others most of the time. No matter what the topic was, from leisure activities, cultural preferences, religion, politics, to music, literature, films, newspapers, our tastes were quite different from the hosts’ and usually several of the other guests.

Yet it made no difference to the friendly atmosphere round the table. Although we all spoke frankly, nobody fell out with anybody else and when the opinion expressed by one or other seemed too extreme to counter, we just kept quiet.

Back home, I nearly fell off my chair when Beloved casually said “Nice people”. He meant it. I had to agree. In spite of the differences of opinion and some difficulties about the food (the hostess didn’t realize that I have a particular food intolerance), we had both thoroughly enjoyed the lunch. In fact, we and another couple stayed long after it would have been polite to leave. I am certain hat this will not have been the last time we share a meal.

What is it that allows us to get on with people, and enjoy their company, with whom we have nothing in common whereas we can fall out with others, whose opinions we share ?

Family is different. You row and shout and become very rude, you hate each other and say so, you dredge up every last insult and slight and misunderstanding, you vow never to darken each other’s doorstep again. When that is over, and the air is cleared, you band together as a family once more, until the next time.

Very well, it doesn’t happen in your family, your family is different. Lucky you.

There are close friends who do that to each other too. I have no close friends.

When we meet others socially, we have to be on our best behaviour, we are unlikely to provoke a row. Telling the other what we think of him is for children or social morons. Manners come into it, an ability to remain detached and polite, to respect the other and accept them as equals, to listen to what they have to say without interruption.

But what is it that allows us to say, quite genuinely, “Nice People”, when we have just spent a few hours in  the company of people of the kind “we don’t like”?

And it wasn’t only the wine!


  1. friko perhaps it's a sense of being in the presence of people who are who they are. it's refreshing to sit with people who share themselves without pretense regardless of their difference. in fact i find people who are very similar and congruent to be difficult to enjoy. steven

  2. I'd say an open mind will give you the solution - or possibly this quote from Aristotle:-

    ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.’
    — Aristotle

  3. Hi Friko:

    I love Jinksy's quote. Why would we assume someone is not 'nice' because they don't share our point(s) of view? I find that a conversation where everyone agrees can become boring. Perhaps that is why some play devil's advocate to stir up the thinking and add some spice to the conversation.

    Why Friko, you frequently do not agree with things I post and yet have said other things that indicate to me that I qualify as 'nice' - and you certainly do for me even though you disagree with me at times. Your 'niceness' does not depend on agreeing with me!

    It really does depend on 'how' things are done - 'how' we present our differing views. Different views provoke thought and facilitate learning. Then again, there are idiotic, callous, prejudiced, self-serving viewpoints that are hard to stomach and make me want to avoid the person's company again.

    I look forward to reading other comments and your responses. Great topic.....again....Friko!

  4. What a group that must have been, you two included. Intelligent, well-spoken, civil.
    It sounds like the very best of the very best:
    Discussion, not argument.

  5. Maybe your title should have been, 'You Don't Have To Agree with People To Like Them'. I agree with Bonnie, Jinksy and June - and marketing specialists, who will tell you 'it's all in the presentation'.

  6. Open-mindedness and tolerance is the word here. Without that, people will not listen. I like to talk with people who have different views on religion and politics but have found that so many, at least here where I live, are not interested or if I persist to talk with them, if will cause conflict. They do not like people unlike themselves. It is difficult to understand someone’s different opinions and points of view if one is always speaking to the choir. I feel that if you do talk to people with different values and opinions you may not like them, but at least you won’t despise them. Alas, too many ultra conservatives have not learned this skill yet – as you can tell by hate crimes around the world. Diversity training should start in kindergarten.

  7. Vagabonde, man, do I hear you! Diversity training might start in kindergarten but tolerance should begin from Day One.

  8. Sounds like an interesting lunch and no newspapers involved :-))
    It shows one can be friendly with people without agreeing as long as politeness is kept and tolerance put into action.

  9. While it's nice to be in the company of like-minded people, sometimes it can be more entertaining, if not revealing, to mix with others who have different likes and opinions.

    I always tend to try and see beyond what people are saying to get a glimpse of what they really look like. More often than not, they look like me....human. Well, almost.

  10. I like that quote from Aristotle. I can't answer your question, but it makes me want to get up and preach. I feel very strongly that the only hope for our world comes from an unflagging discipline to attempt to understand 'the other' - those who have different beliefs. This is especially important in the areas of religion and politics. (and yes, I do practice what I preach.) There are things I feel I will never understand, but if civility and open-mindedness won't win the day I don't know what will.

  11. I think it is because people are more than just a sum of their opinions.

    I like a lot of people I don't agree with.

  12. You are onto something important and Germaine here!

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

  13. Diversity is what keeps us interested in each other, and wanting to know more; it can also be great fun to meet people so different in views and opinions from ourselves, so long as nobody forces their views on others. Sounds like you had a very stimulating and enjoyable time!

    (But I must say your description of family disagreements was rather alarming!)

  14. I think 'respect' and 'civil' definitely make the difference - people were able to explore (in a hopefully animated and entertaining way) their ideas and others' too without getting personal.

  15. It gets boring and the conversation flags if everyone in the room is of the same mind. Much more lively to have opposites....Now if you have a little free time I'd like to send you my father-in-law. He was brought up to mind his manners and be a perfect gentleman by his mother in the old country. But she's long dead, and now his wife is too, God rest them both. But he has forgotten all the gentlemanly ways he learned as a boy.....and we are therefore suffering! If you could take him in hand......

  16. .....BTW, I do have a dishwasher. But pots and pans must needs be scrubbed!

  17. Friko, your post and the thoughtful comments above certainly bolster the value of conversations.

    Conversations involve actively listening, not just talking. Perhaps that ability to listen added a magic touch to your luncheon party.

    Thank you for once again giving us something meaty to chew on! xo

  18. I think that's the sign of a happy, secure person - to be able to listen and share and not feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. It's good to spend time with folks who are completely different from us. Even though, for a lot of people, that's kind of intimidating...

  19. How I wish that we all would become a family of friends and strangers.

    Wishing you a very nice Tuesday.

  20. Your right, family is much different (mine are just choice) but I think if you can find this type of civility or whatever- well then it's something to be grateful for (especially if we don't really like them) ha

  21. Hi Friko

    you have stimulated an interesting discussion here...I think when people need to convince you that their viewpoint is right then I suspect a shaky foundation, and conversely open listeners give us the impression of being genuine and steady, confident in themselves with whatever views they hold.

    happy days

  22. Thank you all for commenting.
    It seems that everyone here is not only a nice person, someone with whom I would gladly share a meal, but that the consensus of opinion is that this niceness, this tolerance, respect, open-mindedness and civility, are absolutely essential to make the company of any human being, whether they agree with us or not, into a pleasure.

    Aristotle was right, Jinksy. And long live diversity, Vagabonde.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.