Optimism, pessimism, and realism

I got into a tiny squabble with a colleague yesterday where we were trying to resolve a billing issue with a client. This problem has been pretty stupid to say the least, and the only reason it’s been prolonged over the course of three-plus months is because neither side, us or our client, wants to just pick up the phone and resolve the issue. Lots of misunderstandings happen over e-mail, and just because the words stare at you in your face doesn’t mean you will completely get what the person who wrote this email is actually trying to convey. Picking up a phone in about ten out of ten cases in my experience always resolves the issue — that goes for personal or professional issues.

It’s not a unique issue to this colleague; it’s an issue with pretty much every single person at my company, and very likely at yours, too. Technology has made us lazy and given us an excuse to not have real phone conversations or face-to-face interactions with people. Why call someone when you could just email them and wait for a response? So I expressed this to my colleague and was insistent that he just call the client; get it done NOW. My colleague shakes his head at me and half jokingly says I’m being angry and pessimistic.

This isn’t about being pessimistic or optimistic; it’s ultimately about looking for the quickest way to solve this problem. It’s being realistic, moron. Do you want to solve your problem or not? If anything, it sounds like you rather just sit there and complain about it then take any actionable step. Since my brother’s death, and as I’ve gotten older, people who just complain and don’t do anything actionable to resolve their problems get zero sympathy from me.

When I think about the question of whether I am an optimistic person versus a pessimistic person, my knee-jerk response I want to give is that it depends on the situation, and actually, I’d prefer to say I’m just a realist. It could be perceived as a cop out, but I try to take the attitude that is most realistic in any given situation. As an example: will my mother ever accept the fact that I’m not moving home? What’s the optimistic vs. pessimistic response to that? I could sit here and be lame about it and think that she’ll just “suck it up” and grow to accept it, but anyone who knows her even the slightest bit knows this is crap. So, the realistic response is that she will never accept it and will always be angry about it.

I decided to text my therapist the question of how she’d characterize me, optimistic or pessimistic. After a bit of back and forth so she could see how I’d characterize myself, she responded and said that if she had to answer the question in black and white, she’d say that I’m a “disappointed optimist.” I guess if what she says is true, then the world really has failed me, but despite that, I keep believing in it.

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