On Walls

Reagan before the Berlin WallIn my travels, I’ve been blessed to observe many different cultures and how the people in those cultures interact with each other. While in South Korea several years ago, one of my friends and I were talking about these dynamics and how they vary in culture. Everybody builds walls around themselves to protect themselves from the potential hurts that always come out of relationships with others. My friend told me that essentially, there are two types of people in the world regarding how they interact with people and form relationships. Of course, these are broad generalities, but in my observation, it’s fairly accurate.

People have two types of walls that the build to insulate themselves from relationship-related pain; an outer wall and an inner wall. How does this play out? One type of person builds a high outer wall around himself. He appears to be an enigma to most of his peers, sometimes even standoffish. It’s not that he’s antisocial or unfriendly; it’s just that he’s a “tough nut to crack.” The high wall serves as a high barrier of entry, relationally speaking. This type of person may be a tough read, may appear to be a mystery, or friendly but simply won’t discuss details of their personal life. Once a person makes it over the high wall, though, all that’s left is a low inner wall around the person. The relationships that this person forms will be deep, lifelong type relationships. Once you’re friends with this person, he’s your friend for life, and would do anything for you.

On the other hand, you have the low wall/high wall people. Someone like this is often easily approachable and seemingly very easy to make friends with on a superficial basis. They have a low outer wall built around them. It’s easy to get to know them in the early stages, but it’s really difficult to get to know them closely; finding out what makes them tick, what their hopes, dreams, fears, etc. are is much more difficult. It’s easy to “get to know” them, but it’s difficult to truly know them. The inner high wall prevents nearly everyone from reaching a lifelong friendship with that person.

Of course, these aren’t 100% accurate representations of every single person. There are those that are somewhere in between. It also doesn’t mean that you can tell at first blush whether one person is of the first or second type. A High/Low person may seem fairly approachable and friendly enough, which may lead to a conclusion that the person is actually Low/High. But, it’s been my observation that most Americans are of the Low/High type. It’s easy to form friendships on a level that seems somewhat deep, but very difficult to know how this person is thinking or feeling. I think that the vast majority of people I know are like this. It’s our culture. We’re not really encouraged to develop friendships that are deep and long lasting. We live in a world that makes surface relationships easy. Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging has replaced phone calls as the primary method of communication. We don’t have to be on the phone long with someone and exchange the usual pleasantries. But then again, it’s difficult to tell. It doesn’t make you a Low/High person if you like to hang out with friends at a bar, use Facebook or any of the other media I just mentioned. It also doesn’t make you a High/Low person if you don’t prefer these types of activities. It’s about the person, not the activity.

In law school, I’ve met three High/Low people that I can readily identify. The rest are either Low/High or I’ve not been able to discern the difference in them. When I do come across those types of people, though, I find myself drawn to them, because I know that a friendship with that person would be last a lifetime. What about me? I used to think that I was a High/Low. I’m really not sure anymore, though. I’m a person that wears emotions on my sleeves, which makes me a fairly easy read. But that just means my emotions are apparent, not that I’m easy to know. I can’t say I strive to be one or the other. I guess you’d have to ask the people around me.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.


1 Response to “On Walls”

  1. 1 Nick December 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Deep, Peter. It’s true. I am almost certainly a Low/High person, what with my ‘dude bra’s’ and whatnot. I think I know exactly one High/Low that you are referring to.

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