On Meeting and Leaving People

Published on December 30, 2017 (↻ February 5, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Humans are social. Cooperation got us where we are—and competition may have stifled our progress. There are several ways to get to know new people, and, in relationships, to leave them. A few thoughts between the years.


There can be uncanniness to meeting people, yet being approachable and outgoing, friendly and kind, honest to others and true to oneself at that, seem to be key skills to learn in life. Or re-learn, if one maintains the position that we’re inherently outgoing and friendly and honest, and only stall and get stalled because of unfavorable beliefs and fears.

What are ways how I get to know people—I, as someone who won’t naturally run into people all the time given that I’m self-employed?

The key—as in most important factor—to meeting people, for me, is not only to make an effort but to challenge my fears.

Why is this key? Because much in our affairs with others seems to be related to fear. As the fantastic Harry Stack Sullivan—I love his books—said in The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry:

[…] anybody and everybody devotes much of his lifetime, a great deal of his energy […] and a good part of his effort in dealing with others, to avoiding more anxiety than he already has and, if possible, to getting rid of this anxiety.

The matter of anxiety and fear is interesting for its relation to temporality (and not at all for “hell being other people”) but it suggests additional complex philosophical questions—questions I’ll try not to raise here because from a practical point of view it seems to suffice that we do fear, and that challenging our fears may be part, key part, of our growth.

But back to my fears—what fears are these, and how do I challenge them? There’s fear of rejection; fear of conflict; fear of boredom; fear of missing out; fear of spending too much; fear of mistakes; fear of wasting time; fear of not being productive (so to rather work instead of meeting up with people); &c.

That doesn’t mean that all these fears would need to be present, even noticeable, and so there’s no paralysis or such—just that any of these fears may be present in some form, that one may be more dominant than others, and: that any one of them present need to be challenged, at least by me.

This challenging, now, has gotten a lot easier over the years, because aging with all the experience it brings and working on ourselves with all the insight that entails are wonderfully useful, and yet I remember quite an afternoon and evening and maybe even day or week spent at home, at least away from people, because some fear had gotten the better of me. In earlier years I had said “no” and stayed away for one or the other strange reason (nowadays my policy is to always say “yes”), and I wouldn’t even have admitted to any fear; but as hindsight is 20/20, and as age and growth serve us, I know that I tricked myself and others there, albeit without bad intent.

I’ve become much more aware when fears would influence my interactions with others, and I confront myself with these fears.

As I have a tendency to rush through my writings—good for speed, but perhaps detrimental to the quality of how I’m expressing my ideas—I hope that we can see how fears can have an impact on us meeting people. That’s not to say that I wish to run into a logical fallacy here and conclude that my case counts for all of us; but, no, that’s exactly what I do because I’m reasonably certain that we have this part of our experience in common.

How I want to close this part, however, is with a recommendation. It’s been just one piece of my journey to tackle my fears and enjoy meeting and being with people much more, but a decisive one, and so I wholeheartedly recommend a book on this matter, and that book is Aziz Gazipura’s The Solution To Social Anxiety. It’s one approach and may help many sympathetic of the matter just described improve their situation.

Mighty Tristram and merry Sir Gawain!

Figure: Good to see you again. (Copyright King Features Syndicate, Inc., distr. Bulls.)


Saying goodbye to people, leaving them, for good, seems to be another interesting matter that can trouble us much. It seems there aren’t a great many situations in which we’d say goodbye for good; pending death seems to be one and, oddly really given that these people usually don’t disappear moving to the other side of the planet, broken relationships the other. What have I found useful to say goodbye?

The key to leaving people, to me, is respect.

Now, why is this? Because at the end of the day, despite our differences, much beyond gender and what not others find to be of distress, we all share being human—and because we may never be sure we completely understood the other person, their background and their motivation, even when we’d ask or plead them, and as such can never rule out that we could do them injustice in some way.

It’s been one of the most frustrating and hurtful experiences in my life to see how closed-off and guarded some people are, but also one of the most humbling that even behind a seemingly clear case of a “bad person,” there may lurk great drama and trauma and yet good intent.

Although I don’t define respect well here, shared humanness and a good chance of misunderstandings make me want to respect every person—not only when leaving them.

The wording here is important for it clarifies part of the dilemma that I see: Personally, I want to but may not always be respectful; but in cases when I leave people, for good, I take great caution to go for a respectful goodbye. That is less so out of fear; less so out of an undue focus on death; but rather due to a more clearly felt realization that this encounter may have been the last time to meet indeed; and that, again, we’re human, that, especially when there was disagreement, we may have misunderstood another and not be that far apart after all; that, in—and going out of—relationships, I’ve cared about the other person.

I’m not sure whether you can pick up the pain that inspired spelling some of this out, but it’s my conviction, and here my recommendation, for us to try as much to respect one another. Especially when the situation or relationship was rough, because then we can see least clearly.

❧ To challenge our fears around new people, and to particularly respect the people who we leave or may not see again; these are two things I think matter much in our affairs with another. As I noticed on my long travels, and noted in the book on them, most people are great, everywhere. If we’re too afraid to even meet them, and too closed-minded to give them our respect, then all that does is say something about us. We can all learn and change.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!