John Scalzi’s got a good post here with You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes.
I actually came up against this often when I was roleplaying. The bad part was, I didn’t really appreciate it until recently. The majority of players and characters responded negatively to my characters, but since there was a small cadre of people who tolerated me, I ignored the rest of the world.
This was not a good thing. What it did was land me with characters that were essentially unplayable, since no one wanted to interact with them, and also gave me the Out of Character reputation of being a bitch.
Which was probably a true assessment, alas.
What I HAVE learned lately is that you have to at least have a minimal amount of respect for other people and their feelings, just to get along. Which means, when they’re reacting negatively, you should try (in some way) to discover if you’re making them uncomfortable. And if you are, you should stop.
This is hard for me to do at times, since my internal “am I freaking people out” meter has been essentially broken forever. It’s no surprise that I have a severely autistic daughter. I’ve got a lot of autistic traits, like not recognizing people’s cues and not being able to decode their conversational hints that something’s amiss. It’s easy to write about a character who can tell what people are thinking by looking at their faces and listening to their voices. It’s a lot harder to tell, in person, yourself, what someone’s feeling. At least, that holds true for me.
And, of course, I have issues with thinking my feelings are the Very Most Important. Honestly, that’s what we all feel, at least as children. We learn, to various degrees, to mute that egoism down as we get older, to be considerate, to be kind.
If I feel angry, my regard for other people’s feelings goes down. If I feel irritated, I stop listening for those cues. And if I feel hurt? Hoo boy, you’d better get the water cannon and give me a good blast to cool me down, because I will wreak havoc in the world if I’m hurt to any degree. That still holds true, despite my wanting to change it.
It’s painful to be good. Maybe other people don’t feel that way. I don’t know– I can’t speak for them. But learning to be good, to be actually a good person and not simply to try to look good, HURTS.