Friction is useful and necessary when you get the balance right.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines friction as the rubbing of one body against another. We know the right amount of friction allows machines to produce optimal results. The same is true of life - whether in the real-world or on the Internet. When friction happens with people of opposing views, they move closer together or further apart.
Herbert Edward in his 1916 book, The Power of Mental Demand, writes about friction. Figuratively and metaphorically, he says, friction applies to life for individuals and for our social relationships. He says it is very important to avoid hurtful friction. For machines, the worst type of friction is sabotage, where a person intentionally tries to destroy a machine. In life, Herbert says hurtful friction happens when we similarly speak with anger, malice, and hate towards others. Fear, fret, and irritability are part of hurtful friction and can quickly wear you out if you don’t get in front of it.
Keeping your cool with friction
Herbert talks about the importance of managing the friction in your life saying,
”The average person could increase their mental power 30 percent by the elimination of such friction."
I wonder what Herbert would say about the overdose of friction on the Internet and in real life today. He offers simple tips with an understanding that keeping your cool is of utmost importance.
"Never answer on the impulse of the moment, nor decide on a course of action while in an irritated mood. If necessary, lay the matter under consideration aside and take it up 24 hours later when a good night's sleep and a calmer state of the faculties will enable you to see the matter in a different and a truer light, and to handle it more wisely and effectively. When you're tempted to take exceptions and irritated over what seems to be an injustice or is unsatisfactory in any sense, put yourself in the other person's place and consider from his or her point of view. To be just, requires reason and thought."
Besides having empathy, Herbert says the most important factor is to get right with yourself first. Then focus on others because it’s impossible for your friction not to affect others if you are stuck.
Herbert couldn’t have predicted the amount of misinformation, and rage that divides so many today. But his words of advice ring true today. It’s worth remembering the importance he places on self-accountability and self-awareness:
"The control and direction of ourselves are two-thirds of the victory in controlling and influencing others".
Be like Driveway Guy
A homeowner in Salt Lake City got annoyed experienced friction, getting an alert every night on his home security camera facing his driveway. In his own words, a kid kept “tearing it up” on the flat concrete. Like most homeowners, he initially got annoyed. But he didn’t rush to conclusions. Pretty soon, the driveway guy looked forward to the alerts and the video footage. His wife gave him advice that kept him up most of the night. Besides inspiring the kid and his neighbors, Driveway Guy inspired himself saying,
"What transpired turned into the best part of an otherwise dreary pandemic summer."
My dad used to say, “Do your level best" every time his kids wanted to quit on people and stuff. I’m sure he and Herbert would agree that you gotta do your level best to collect your thoughts, manage your emotions, crack jokes, and laugh, and be slower to judge others.
How do you handle friction today?
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— Source: Law, Herbert E. (1916). The Power of Mental Demand and Other Essays