Social Question

DancingMind's avatar

What does it mean to know someone?

Asked by DancingMind (5812 points ) December 8th, 2013

When do you feel you know a person—is it the length of time you’ve known them? Is it how much you’ve talked with them? When you know a certain amount about the person’s life? When you have a piece of yourself invested, emotion or time or space? Is it when you know their name? Their voice? When you can predict what they’ll do? Is it when you recognize them well enough to say hello? When you see them enough to not need to anymore?

What does it mean to be known?
Is it when someone knows how to spell your name? Is it when someone thinks of you when you’re not there? Is it when someone sees you smile and knows if it’s genuine?

How small does the gap between minds need to be? An arm’s reach? A shout’s? A synapse? At what point do we meet? At what point do we fracture?

What does is mean to be alone?

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11 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

I can’t even claim to know myself completely.

I have been close to people, know history, predispositions, interpret glances hear their voice in my head when they aren’t around. Share confidences, share experiences and opinions, or even disagree and understand the others position.

But still they are capable of surprising me, still I have much to learn.

I wouldn’t say we know anyone completely. We just don’t have the power. And in that respect we are alone. But is that really a bad thing? Here in the culture that supposedly embraces individuality. Everyone is still scared to be alone.. I think it is normal, we are social creatures. But we are not a collective, we are not drones and I think if we can’t change it, then embrace it. That does not mean give up or push people away. But to accept limitations.

When we presume to know someone we take them for granted. We run the risk of stopping to inquire, we jump to conclusions and we stop asking questions. That is a mistake in my opinion.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Beautiful question. I feel like I know you a little better now.

hearkat's avatar

We can only know as much as the other chooses to share with us. Even people I’ve worked with for years and have a sense of their behavior patterns and opinions will surprise me once in a while. Many people spend a lot of energy burying memories and trying to hide their perceived faults and flaws. As long as they are engaged in such head games, they often can not know themselves very well, let alone allow others to know them. Their genuine self gets buried under layers.

My fiancĂ© and I met in our mid-40s, and we discussed before we officially dated how important it is to hold nothing back and have full disclosure and transparency. We have lived by that policy for a while and it works for us – we are the same person when we’re alone and when we’re together. We’ve discussed the trials and tribulations of our first 40+ years and we know each other about as well as one can know someone else. Yet we still accept that there are details and minutiae that haven’t come up in conversation, or forgotten memories that some random experience might push to the surface – but we ‘know’ each other and our core values well enough to believe that those are benign and that we can trust each other.

zenvelo's avatar

Ahhh, a question for the ages, and different every time there’s a relationship of one sort or another. We know another by the amount we are each willing to be vulnerable to the other person.

I have been seeing a woman off and on since August and noticed a bit of reticence right before Thanksgiving and called her on it. She expressed that she has been worried about if we are growing closer or not. And so we talked through a number of things, and both came to realize our situations (distance, work, kids, schedules) are making it difficult to sustain.

Okay, great, open, honest yet difficult communication. But then she writes me a very touching email about how she feels touched by me. And I must say if she had communicated this to me a month ago, I’d feel so different about her. And one thing she appreciates about me is that I have been open and vulnerable to her.

Some couples are together for years and never really know each other.

My closest relationship is with a woman I know so well, and she knows me so well, that we can discuss each other’s feelings about something before the feeling is fully communicated. She knows me more than I know myself. It’s a wondrous relationship, and we both know we’ll always be in each other’s lives.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t find it useful to think in terms of “knowing” someone. People are dynamic, always changing. To presume to “know” someone is to hold them to how they have been on the assumption that they’re still that way. This often misleads.

I’ve been married for 31 years. My wife, quite naturally, thinks she knows me. She doesn’t. It’s not that I’ve tried to conceal anything from her, but when I hear her say what she thinks I’m thinking, or what I do or don’t want, or why I do this or that, I’m often completely surprised at how wrong she’s gotten it. She bases these conjectures on ways I have been, the virtual “me” that she models in her head from old data. That’s not who I am.

I find it more helpful to admit that people are deep mysteries, ultimately unknowable. This still leaves open the possibility of intimacy, which is something far more interesting than knowing. Intimacy requires getting beyond the model of the person in your head and paying close attention to the unfolding wonder that they actually are. In that attentive intimacy, there’s the possibility of discovery. You’re granting them the freedom to surprise you with their unconstrained subtlety.

This intimacy also opens the door to the realization that we all share in this perpetual unfolding. It’s something that we do together.

rojo's avatar

Over the years I have found that no matter how familiar you may be with someone, eventually they will always do something that you would never imagine they would or could do.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m with @rojo. I’m skeptical that you can ever truly know someone.

Coloma's avatar

Great sharings everyone, and I concur, we can never really know anyone, as well as never really knowing ourselves.
As much as I like to think I know myself well, and I do, in many areas, there is still much I do not know, cannot predict, until circumstances or situations arise to test what I think I know.

creative1's avatar

I don’t think you ever really know someone fully, there is always a peice of themselves that they don’t share.. People are continually changing and evolving, if you think you know someone one minute the next they will change a bit to where they may do or say something to make you realize you don’t know them at all.

graynett's avatar

You will never Know someone until you learn to discover the everyday person in them who is struggling to relate to life as a whole person. One who has understanding, acceptance, control, confidence and love.

rojo's avatar

A quote by Nick in The Big Chill :

“Wrong, a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier berth than we did. It’s not surprising our friendship could survive that. It’s only out there in the real world that it gets tough.”

I think this expresses my personal beliefs about how or why you think you can “know” someone and yet they can then do something completely unexpected. Life happens while we are existing and that changes people. Life is change.

It also says a lot about friendship but that is for another question.

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