Gary ties one on

I met a friend downtown the other day and noticed his necktie. I have quite a collection of those, some from when they were expected dress for businessmen and some I collected just for the fun of it. I found a bunch in tie shops in airports. With “business casual” being the in thing and with an infinite number of sources on the internet, I doubt the shops are there any more.

But there are still plenty of “suits” downtown and my friend is usually in one of them. The tie looked familiar. “Is that a Jerry Garcia?” I asked. Sure enough, it was. Allow a slight digression here. Jerry Garcia’s real claim to fame is as guitarist and vocalist for “The Grateful Dead.” It’s unlikely he ever wore a tie in his life. But he has a line of spectacular ties still available even though Jerry, grateful or not, has been dead nearly 20 years. (For a taste of his musical spectacularity, try this link: That’s Jerry on the left…)

My friend said he likes Garcia’s ties because they are long and they fit him well. He said standard ties are usually too short, hard to tie, and leave you with just a little bottom section in order to make the tie the right length and with a long section and a very short section, they don’t hang properly. I begged to differ indicating that virtually all ties are too long and even if I tie them so the top and bottom sections are even, they extend south of my belt line. We found these differing points of view humorous.

If ever there was a classic example of “perspective,” this was it. A tall guy and a short guy have the same tie. It’s too short as far as tall guy is concerned and too long for the short guy. I saw a cartoon one time in which two witnesses to a crime, a very tall guy and a very short guy were describing the suspect. The tall guy described him as rather short and the short guy described him as rather tall. The policeman’s note read: “average height.”

The discussion my friend and I had about the different views of the same tie was humorous but as almost always, there’s a lesson here.

There was just one tie. We had virtually identical ones, but the way we viewed them was way different. Who was right? Neither of us? Both of us? Certainly the difference of opinion was significant, but was there any point to arguing about such a difference of opinion? Of course not. It would be senseless, immature, and frustrating to take an “I’m right!” position. Why back ourselves into isolating corners when we can, instead, come together and celebrate our appreciation of our common taste in these beautiful neckties?

It’s a basic question we should ask ourselves whenever there is a difference of opinion. And it doesn’t matter who we’re talking to or what the subject is. It can be as simple as a necktie, as common as an issue with a loved one, or as complicated as the current impasse in congress. The question is this: “Is what I am about to do going to help or hurt the situation?”

Stopping just long enough to ask that question can make all the difference in the world. Assuming that we want to be in the relationship, wouldn’t you want to say something to help? And why in the world would you intentionally want to say something to hurt? Decent, reasonable, caring people will always try to help.

Think about the situations you’ll be in today. Think about the situations faced by people making the highest level political decisions. Think about the neck tie discussion. Which makes the most sense, arguing: “The tie’s too long!” “No, the tie’s too short!” “No it isn’t!” “Yes it is!” Or just: “Hey! Nice tie!”

Gary Lester directs Leadership Warren and is a counselor with Family Services of Warren County. Make a resolution to improve yourself by enrolling in its new Stress Management or Anger Management classes. Call 723-1330 for more information.