Pleasing personality
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - January 9, 2012 - 12:00am

I’m a big “quotable quote” fan. I love memorable lines from classic movies. I find it so amazing how certain lines or dialogue can be quoted from a film and immediately, you can identify what movie it’s from. When I say lines like “May the Force be with you” or “I’m the king of the world!” you don’t even have to think twice. You immediately know which films I’m referring to.

There are some movies I watch over and over again mainly because of the great dialogue. I like watching A Few Good Men and seeing Jack Nicholson shout at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” I love watching The American President and hearing Michael J. Fox say to Michael Douglas, “In this country, it is not only permissible to question our leaders, it’s our responsibility!”

One of my all-time favorite movies — dialogue-wise — is the Meg Ryan-Billy Crystal classic When Harry Met Sally. That movie is so full of quotable quotes that I think its entire script should be framed and put in a museum. One particular bit of dialogue that stands out for me is between Billy Crystal’s character, Harry, and Harry’s best friend, Jesse, played by Bruno Kirby. In this particular scene, Harry is setting Jesse up for a date with Sally. Here’s how the conversation goes:

Jess: I don’t know about this.

Harry: It’s just a dinner.

Jess: You know, I’ve finally gone to a new place in my life where I’m comfortable with the fact that it’s just me and my work.  If she’s so great, why aren’t you taking her out?

Harry: How many times do I have to tell you, we’re just friends.

Jess: So you’re saying she’s not that attractive.

Harry: No, I told you she is attractive.

Jess: Yeah, but you also said she has a good personality.

Harry: She has a good personality.

(Jess stops walking, turns to Harry, raises his arms in the air.)

Harry: What?

Jess: When someone is not that attractive, they’re always described as having a good personality.

Harry: Look, if you would ask me, “What does she look like?” and I said, “She has a good personality,” that means she’s not attractive.  But just because I happened to mention that she has a good personality, she could be either.  She could be attractive with a good personality, or not attractive with a good personality.

Jess: So which one is she?

Harry: Attractive.

Jess: But not beautiful, right?

(Harry walks away.)

I can’t help but smile whenever I hear that dialogue, mainly because of the brutal honesty of the whole thing. In a way, what Jesse is saying is true. Whenever a person is said to have a good personality or a “pleasing personality,” it usually means that that person is not physically attractive. When someone says, “I had a date last night” and his friends ask, “How is she?” and the guy replies, “She has a pleasing personality,” his friends will automatically respond, “Ah, pangit?”   As merciless as that sounds, it seems that that’s the universal truth when it comes to having a “pleasing personality.” Having a good or pleasing personality seems to be the counter-balance or the upside of being ugly. 

I don’t know, maybe it’s God’s way of compensating the ugly; He put a negative spin on being aesthetically beautiful. The usual formula in this world is this: Beautiful people are arrogant, snooty and nasty, while ugly people are humble, nice, and accommodating. Of course, I am sure there are exceptions. There are some ugly, snooty people. And there are nice, beautiful people. But by and large the formula is, more often than not, true. Well, at least, that is the general perception of most people.

The tricky part about having a pleasing personality is that it’s not always a good thing. Sure, generally, people gravitate towards individuals who have a pleasing personality. In fact, most employers who take out ads for applicants always include the qualification “Must have a pleasing personality,” which, to me, is weird because I don’t think anyone will ever admit they have a “displeasing” personality. But sometimes, when you always try to please people and you try to please everyone, you end up displeasing more people. Because when you try to make everyone happy, you end up like a politician. You say things to people with the sole objective of making them hear what they want to hear, and consequently, sometimes you end up not being too forthright and upfront. If you have a pleasing personality and you always like to please, when your boss asks, “How are your sales?” your tendency is to say, “All’s good, Boss,” even if things are not that okay. Ultimately, though, this will backfire because at the end of the day, you need to account for the sales. And when your boss discovers you’ve been sandbagging just to please him, you’ll end up being in a deeper hole.

Recently, I found myself in a very sticky situation. In a nutshell, I was in a business dilemma where I had to make a choice between pleasing one person and displeasing another. When I spoke to the first person, I told him I was deciding in his favor. But when I talked to the other person, he told me he was displeased with my decision. Because of that, I changed my mind and decided to please this other person. In the end, both of them were displeased with me because of my indecisiveness and my flip-flopping. And the reason for my indecisiveness was because of my desire to please everyone. But the reality is you really can’t please everyone in this world. That’s a reality that all of us know and yet find difficult to accept, and to practice. It’s the politician in all of us.

No matter how nice you are, you will never, ever please everyone. There’s always someone in this world who will not like you or agree with what you stand for. Heck, our Lord Jesus was a perfect being who spoke the Truth, and yet He got whipped, tortured and crucified.

So this holiday season, don’t try too hard to please everyone. Don’t try to give gifts to everyone on your phone list or address book. Just give to those people who can’t return the favor. Because at the end of the day, even if you give a bottle of wine or a fruitcake to all your clients and acquaintances, you won’t please everyone anyway. If you really want to please more people, give to those who really need help. 

You may not please everyone on your Facebook friend list by doing that but hey, at least you win some “pogi points” for your soul.

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