Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Categories and Zones

I don't know if this is a geek thing, but the way I organize my world is by putting things into categories. That is, I classify things in my brain by how alike they are to each other and how different they are from each other.

I even do this with my relationships with other people.

I don't know if other people do this, but I have zones, or spheres, in which I classify my relationships with people. For each zone I have different expectations, levels of trust, and feelings of obligation. Each of my zones have rules, both for myself and for the other person. I don't think I've ever tried to write out the rules, so this should be an interesting exercise.

If you violate the rules of the zone, you get pushed out or demoted to a lower zone. If I violate the rules of the zone, then I berate myself and generally lower my self image.

I have 5 zones.

Zone 1: Enemy
Zone 2: Non-acquaintance
Zone 3: acquaintance
Zone 4: Friend
Zone 5: Family

Enemy: Fortunately I don't have too many enemies. I expect enemies to intentionally hurt me when they have the opportunity, which in a funny way allows me to have a certain level of trust in them.

Because, really, in essence, trust is simply adjusting your behavior or decisions based on your confidence to predict the other person's behavior. A person who behaves as they say they will is considered trustworthy, because they do what they say. But, I can also trust that a person is going to be late even when they say they will be there on time, because that is what they have done in the past. They are not trustworthy to be on time, but I can trust them to be late.

My only obligation to my enemy is to be polite, not for their sake, but for mine.

Non-acquaintance: These are just people I don't know. I owe them nothing, they owe me nothing. It's a simple arrangement. No trust, no obligation other than being polite and saving their life if it doesn't imperil mine.

Acquaintance: These are people I know who aren't friends. My expectations from acquaintances are low and my obligations are equally low. If they need help, I might help them out if it doesn't cost me too much, but I really don't feel obligated to. My trust is very low and I don't put myself in postions of vulnerability to them if at all possible.

Friend: My expectations from my friends are pretty high. I'm the kind of person who has a few close friends, rather than many not-so-close. Those, I usually just consider to be acquaintances. I expect my friends to share my core values. That's probably because I'm more willing to trust someone who thinks along the same lines that I do rather than someone who doesn't. I expect my friends to be trustworthy and willing to help me in time of need, as long as it doesn't cost them an extraordinary amount of effort, time, or money. My obligations to them are the same. I'll help them out as long as it doesn't drastically interfere with other things going on in my life. I will trust them enough to put myself in some positions of vulnerability, but not many.

Family: This classification has nothing to do with blood relationships. I have many "family" members who are really just acquaintances and friends. I don't owe them a whole lot and I don't expect a whole lot from them. Unfortunately, I have a couple who are trying very hard to get into the Enemy classification. No, Family, to me depends more on my expectations, trust and feelings of obligation, rather than genetics.

A family member is someone you would trust not with just your life, but your kid's life. My expectations from those I consider family are very high. Depending on the circumstance, I expect them to be there when I need them and nothing short of death or serious injury should keep them. And on the same hand, I obligate myself to the same. If they need me, I'm there.

People are always moving in and out of the different zones. Mostly I have to downgrade people because they show me that they are not trustworthy. I don't know if it is a sign of the times, or maybe I'm just becoming more jaded in my old age, but there seem to be fewer people worthy of trust these days. Personally, I think it's a shift in culture... which is fodder for another post.


I guess, my "zones" is just a shorthand way of knowing how much I'm obligated to a particular person, based on my expectations from them.


At August 12, 2004 at 11:25 AM, Blogger tan247 said...

What an interesting way of looking at the people who you come in contact with. Your category descriptions can eliminate frustrations/expectations with those we communicate with. Some people we consider 'friends' are actually just 'acquaintances'.

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