Easy People

We just got back from visiting four National Parks in Utah. I was amazed by the spectacular sights we saw, like the towering rock walls in Zion, and the strange looking  “hoodoo” rocks in Bryce Canyon.

I was even more amazed, however, that we could spend eight days traveling with another couple, and at the end of the trip, be even fonder of them than when we began.     

I proposed a toast to the other couple at the end of our Utah trip, and I gave them the highest compliment I can give someone. I told them they were “easy” people.

We spend a lot of time talking about difficult people, and they are obviously on our minds more than easy people. This time, however, it was easy people who were on my mind. What makes a person easy, I wondered?

It’s not their types. The man we were traveling with is an ISFJ, and his wife is an ESTJ. ISFJs can be over-sensitive and anxious in new situations. He was not. ESTJs can be controlling and critical. She was not. In fact, if I had not known their types from years ago, I would have had a very hard time figuring them out. They were clearly mature people who had learned to control the negative tendencies of their types in consideration for others.

We had a lot of time in the car and at dinner to talk. We all told anecdotes about our work, relationships, and past vacations, but our friends made sure that everyone got equal talking time. They had traveled extensively, so their stories were interesting, but if they had talked for a while, they would ask questions to get stories from us. When it came time to listen, they showed interest, and let us know that we’d been heard.

They made no demands on us, like keeping us waiting, being inflexible or making us listen to bickering between spouses. They looked after our needs, making sure there was a Diet Coke in the backpack for me every day, for instance, and that our hikes were easy enough not to hurt my husband’s knees. If there were plans to make, they made sure we were involved in the decision-making. When we did something for them, we were heartily thanked. They remained calm and good-natured even when circumstances got trying, like standing in the sun waiting for a bus to the rental car center, or when we couldn’t buy a package of Tums because the local Mormons don’t open their shops on Sunday. They smiled and laughed often, bringing sunshine to our group, and to the taxi drivers and other tourists we met.

Social scientists have found that one of the key ingredients to our success as a species is our ability to cooperate, and we’re able to cooperate because we have an instinctive desire to reciprocate, to return “tit for tat.” Think about how hard it is not to return a smile with a smile, or a frown with a frown.

On our Utah trip, it was all kindness being volleyed back and forth. Our friends were thoughtful and respectful in their words and deeds, and it was easy to send that back to them. That’s what we mean by “easy” people, I guess. They are skilled at keeping the cooperative ball in play.  

On this trip, I was amazed by how beautiful nature can be, but also by how beautiful people can be. We all have them in our lives - people who are easy to be with - and every once in awhile, we should probably spend some time thinking about them, learning from them, and thanking them. After all, it’s not easy to be an easy person, it takes practice, and they deserve something extra in return for the extra they give - tit for tat.  

 

 

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