Words of wisdom from Greg Panaligan
I had a lovely conversation with my neighbor Greg Panaligan last month. So much we talked about was memorable, but the following thought keeps coming back to me as I piss people off and they piss me off.
He's learned that when talking to someone--a friend, neighbor, colleague, family member--they usually just want you to do one of four things:
b) Help them solve a problem
c) Offer opinion
d) Just give them a hug
Trouble arises between you and this person you care about when you don't know which of those things they want from you.
As some online friend suggested, when in doubt go with a and/or d.
A couple years ago at a breakfast with legislators at the Evanston Golf Club, Jan Schakowsky got heated during a discussion with a constituent. It was a awkward, painful spectacle.
I know Jan a little and like her a lot, so I offered her a hug. She accepted, we shared a squeeze and soon she was able to smile for a picture with a friend of ours (and critique my work.)
Later this kept going through my mind: Jan Schakowsky. What does she need a hug from me for? She's handled tougher folks and trickier issues than that guy. She's experienced. She knows what to do.
Soon after I saw Jan at another function and mentioned my afterthought. It went something like, "Oh, yeah, that guy. Wow. Hmm. I am not conflict adverse. I was fine, but I did like the hug. I'm a hugger."
Last year I was to photograph Jimmy Carter at an awards gala. I'd met and photographed him before, so knew what I wanted to talk about before the grip-and-grin picture-taking began. After our short conversation, I offered him a hug. We shared a squeeze and he remarked "If I have any trouble smiling, I'll remember that hug."
Takeaway from these stories: Hardly anyone doesn't like a hug.