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Friday Refill - Complexity Inversion

Published 4/23/2021

It's easy to imagine we are more complex and others are more simple than is true. Often, we see ourselves as having nuance, while others are characterized once and that characterization may never be updated. In this episode we'll talk about this inversion, and how to push back on it.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Happy Friday everybody! My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to another Friday Reveal episode of Developer Teeth. I want to talk to you about something that has illuminated a lot of things for me, especially in my relationships. This simple idea I think applies outside of our relationships, but I do want to focus in on relationships for the sake of today's episode so we can keep the scope of the conversation and the short scope that you're used to for the Friday Reveal. The basic idea that I want to talk about today is called the inversion of complexity. Don't go and Google this, this is something I think that I have titled here. I don't know that this exists anywhere else other than this podcast. Certainly, the concept is not novel. This idea that I'm calling the inversion of complexity is the idea that we very often and we'll focus again on our human interactions. We very often imagine that we are very complex individuals. That this complexity extends to so many parts of our lives. Our family life is complex and our individual relationships within our friendship groups. Those are complex too. And our tastes or preferences, that's complex and our work life is complex. We have all of these exceptions and nuances in ourselves and on the other hand, that the rest of the world is simple. That other people are simple that we have them essentially figured out from the start. And it kind of makes sense why we do this. Because we have a very clear picture of our own complexity, so clear, that we could easily overestimate it. We could easily overestimate the complexity of our emotions, for example. While we don't have that same insight into others, and not only that, but we are not evolved to understand people at an emotionally deep level. Now, hear me clearly here. We are social human beings. We are trying to understand each other at an emotional level. We are good at that. We're good at building relationships with other people. But we are not very good at keeping in mind the long string of events and nuances that other people are experiencing. This is why we can call empathy a skill. It is something that we must practice that we often have to do very intentionally. Some may be predisposed to practice empathy more readily than others, but by and large, all of us view ourselves through a lens that makes us believe that we are more complex than the rest of the people around us. And here's the interesting thing. Not only are we more complex than the people around us, but we're more complex than the grouping of people around us. If you were to try to rate the complexity of the relationships amongst your group of, let's say, your team at work versus your internal complexity, it's very likely that you will rate your internal complexity higher than the relationships that you have at work. But the truth is that every individual that is involved in those relationships and makes that social networking, the networking that happens at work or amongst your friend group, that is far more complex than any individual's experience. Interestingly, a lot of our emotions can trick us into thinking that we are more complex or that more is going on than is really going on. In fact, I'll leave you with a little bit of advice that I heard one time. And it was in regards to, I believe it was marriage advice, but this advice can certainly extend beyond marriages. And the idea was, never have a serious conversation until you've had a sandwich first. And no, you don't need to rewind and play that again. I did say a sandwich. In a moment of heated conflict, we might believe that so many of our feelings are due to some very complex tower of issues, but if we stop, pause, take a moment, and address the most basic of our needs. For example, addressing our need for hydration or food or simply getting up and taking a walk. These things that seem oversimplified very often, if we handle those simple, basic things like that. A lot of those things that seemed complex, our perception was convincing us that it was complex. They kind of disappear. So here's my advice for you over the weekend. Try to pay attention to the things that you believe are simple. Be curious about whether those simple things are actually more complex than you're giving them credit. Additionally, try to pay attention to this idea that maybe you're over complicating yourself and that it's time to take care of those basics. Make sure you stay hydrated over the weekend. Make sure you eat well and get a little bit of exercise. As simple as this advice sounds and as overdone as it is, over and over on every podcast that you've ever listened to, probably, you've heard this advice. What we often forget is that these basics are not just a starting point. They are fundamentally intertwined with our experience as human beings. Pay attention to the basics and so much of the complexity that you perceive might just disappear. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode, this Friday Refill of Developer Tea. Make sure you subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're currently using so you don't miss out on future episodes. Of course, we do three of these a week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, a restful weekend, and we'll get back to it on Monday. Till then, enjoy your tea.