Time Will Tell


I was in the doctor’s office and the gears of a clock were visible from across the room. As I sat and waited my turn I thought about what makes people tick. The doctors see and understand things from the inside out, but do they really KNOW the people they are examining? Do they understand what motivates them, what they get excited about, or why they may be less than themselves? I don’t think so.

Then I thought about all the people I know and the differing levels I have of knowledge and friendship. There are lots of people I know and have no idea what makes them who they are. I may have insights or inklings, but I am clueless as to their inner selves. These are the people I see and usually engage with on a superficial level. I know them by name but don’t really know them.

Then there are the people I know a bit better. I know what they enjoy, what annoys them, their favorite foods or activities, even what vegetables they will not eat. I have spent time with them, enjoy being around them, and they have shared important details about their world. The best thing I have done over the years is listen when they needed to listen. These people I call friends, and I would think I know what makes them tick, but maybe I don’t.

Then there are the people I am closest to, the ones I know very well. We have been with each other through trials and tribulations, success and celebrations. Over time we have gotten to know each other very well and have built a bond of trust between us. There are multiple people in this group, yet the group is rather small. Not many people know me this intimately and I know few people this well. I would say if asked that I know what makes these people tick, and they could probably do the same when asked about me.

So what makes the difference between these three groups of people? It may have something to do with the amount of time I have known them, but time alone does not mean we know what makes people tick. I have interacted with many people for years on a superficial level and have no idea what goes on in their lives. And I have people I see all the time – colleagues, clients, service people, vendors – talk with often, and we spend many hours together and I have no clue what makes them tick. And I have people I only interact with for a short, intense spurt of time and I know their dreams, fears, motivations, and goals very well. So time alone does not guarantee any depth of relationship nor does it  prevent us from knowing people.

As I sat and waited for my name to be called to get into an examining room, I thought about what does allow us to know each other better? The people I know well and who know me well have made an investment. An investment in time, energy, effort, vulnerability, and a willingness to deal with the emotions and mess that comes with knowing what makes people tick. It is being willing to do the dirty work, sticking around when things get ugly and being there whether they win or lose. It means being willing to not always get it your way or be in control or get what you want out of it. Really knowing what makes people tick can only work if the pendulum swings both ways. Both sides have to represent their true selves and takes the necessary risks to be known, and some people just don’t want or need to know us that well.

Relationships are an investment. Knowing people means using wisdom and discernment to understand to what level the relationship needs to form in order for both sides to get what they want or need. Knowing someone’s name and asking about their family may be the best gift we can give. A handshake and a smile may be all that person needs from you for today. And then there are those who need to talk and tell you they found a lump, or vent when their world gets shattered. Being willing to be what people need when they need it, in the timeframe and timeline of their life is the true measure of knowing people.  If you let them people will tell you things they need you to know, so listen and invest yourself and your time. And if you aren’t willing to invest, to truly be yourself, then don’t be surprised that no one really knows you…you don’t really know you. I guess time will tell.

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