Opposites Attract : Becoming The Same

At school, I somehow managed to be the person who had to sit next to the new kid.  I really don’t know how I managed it.

There was one guy who had to sit next to when he started, and that stint lasted the entire school year.  We went through the education system together for probably eight years before losing contact when we went to different universities.

I met him again maybe four years after we left school, under unfortunates circumstances.  About an hour and a half after a first nod of the head and fleeting “hello”, he apologised for not having recognised me!  I must have made quite the impression!

However, according to a two-year Northwestern University study of 2,452 help-desk and other client-service workers at a technology company, who you set next to can influence your performance at work by anywhere between 3% and 16%.  So if someone has some skills you admire and want to develop in yourself, sit next to them for a bit.

The Wall Street Journal reported the research:

Productive employees—those who finished tasks quickly—raised the output of slower colleagues by 8%. Effective employees, who could handle customers’ problems without referring them to co-workers to finish, lifted their neighbors’ effectiveness by 16%. Quality workers, who received high ratings on customer surveys, inspired 3% improvements in colleagues’ quality ratings, says the study, published last year by the Harvard Business School.

This could be down to inspiration and / or peer pressure.  It has interesting consequences, for me, when it comes to teaching, but I also started thinking about influence in areas away from the workplace.

I know that I pick up accents from people if I spend long enough with them.  I also sometimes pick up words and phrases or ways of saying things.  I’ve seen friends change behaviours depending on their closeness to others; what was once their fun is now their idea of a nightmare.

“They” say that opposites attract.  I know that I’ve valued people who can push me to my limits because they do things that I want to do, but need support with.  In return, I hope that I can provide them with something.  I wonder how much influence simply time has in moulding us to be the person we want to improve to be and whether, as a result we would end up as one and the same person.

Polar opposites don’t push away
It’s the same on the weekends as the rest of the days
And I know I should go but I’ll probably stay
And that’s all you can do about some things
I’m trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away
Two one eyed dogs, they’re looking at stereos
Hi-fi Gods try so hard to make their cars low to the ground
These vibrations oil its teeth
Primer gray is the color when you’re done dying
I’m trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away

Polar Opposites by Modest Mouse

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