I spend a lot of time talking about empathy, grace, human kindness and forgiveness. I do so, because I see a startling lack of each in our world. I also spend a fair amount of time responding to emails, calls and letters that are pleas for help. From seekers of recovery in kicking their drug of choice to suicide interventions, I get asked to help a lot of people. It isn’t because I’m smarter or more qualified. I know much of it goes back to my work in the recovery industry and being a program manager (who actually cared) in a prison. I was drained, sometimes. But, I know what it’s like when there’s no one left to believe in you. I knew it in childhood, in an era when we didn’t grasp the imprint left on kids during some significantly influential years. I’m over that, as far as brooding or whining. It is a truth on my path, and turning it into a positive has meant I’ve raised two incredibly strong kids who know their worth and never doubted that they were SOMEbody’s priority everyday of their life. Adults don’t stop having that need, either. We need to feel more than simply a blip on the radar of those who know us best. We need to feel needed. But, you wanna know the truth? Even I meet jerks that make me scratch my head in dismay. How can they NOT know how they ARE? Even in the midst of the iteration of their woes, I hear the problem coming out of their mouth, in their own words, and they never skip a beat…never have an “ah-ha” moment…”I heard myself! I have the answer! I am the problem!” No. The rant continues and, even when asked, “Did you hear what you *just* said?”…the facial expression of sheer confusion says it all. So, from my own observations, to be discarded or considered at your whim, I’ve compiled the most common, glaringly obvious reasons why it feels like the world is against you. If the shoe fits, you probably won’t recognize it, so, maybe revisit this one when your guard is down and you’re more willing to see truth vs making excuses.
1.) You don’t listen.
If you spend two hours with a loved one and you can’t talk intelligently for 2 minutes about what your friend or family member has been battling/celebrating/working towards, you probably monopolized the conversation and they gave up, realizing they weren’t getting a word in edgewise. I am guilty of trying to have dialogue before the my conversationalist has finished their set of thoughts. When I have a comment on something relative to what is being said, I want to interject it before it’s irrelevant, five minutes later. In reality, what may be much more important than being engaged in dialogue is being engaged in the person speaking. There will be clues, subtle or glaring, if they need interaction or simply to unload. If I am unclear, I’ve asked, “Are you looking for feedback or do you need me to listen?” This tactic works well, and often the other party will consider before answering. It puts the other at ease during deep conversations, as to what your role entails. If it’s to listen, do exactly that. If you can’t dedicate undivided attention to this person, be honest. Tell them you want to hear what they have to say without any distractions, and what time you’re available. They’re much likelier to be appreciative of the honesty than a half-hearted attempt at catching every third thought while you multitask through their conversation.
2.) You’re negative.
If no one seems too concerned when you disclose a seriously disturbing fact about your life, maybe it’s because they’re so used to this being your norm they aren’t fazed. It doesn’t make them insensitive jerks, but you may have, over time, desensitized them to your droning over everything from your health issues, your miserable job, your horrible roommate, your nosey mom, your landlord’s lack of response to your thermostat issues…you get the picture. If people tend to scatter when you approach a cluster in conversation, ask yourself what it was you were just about to say as you entered the group. Was it positive? Were you interested in their updates? Were you relieved to have an audience with whom to share a laundry list of complaints? You’d probably excuse yourself, too. Cheer up. You’re attracting the negative and repelling the good. I. Promise.
3.) You’re a one-upper
Unfortunately, only those who deal with one uppers will identify the one uppers, never the one-uppers, themselves. But, in an attempt to rattle the brains of one-uppers: Do you ever start your sentences with, “That’s nothing,” “You think that’s bad?” “Well, listen to THIS,” “You don’t even know the half of it,” or any other phrase that verbally jenga’s your counterpart, minimizing the very statement they just made without so much of an acknowledgement before going on to impart the wisdom or story you know they’ve been waiting to hear? You might be a one-upper. If they’ve achieved something, experienced an event, either positive or negative, or are simply relaying a story…for crying out loud, your story about that time at band camp can wait. Everybody has a cousin that knows a guy. And, your favorite recycled tale, while true, but overtold so many times, your friends know it like the lines of a movie, can wait. Let someone else have the limelight and don’t adjust it while they have the stage. Watch how differently people respond to you.
4.) You doubt yourself, to a fault
If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. While none of us want to fit the description of a non-dazzling bullshitter, sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils, when you are not capable of speaking with authority. One of my peeves is when people end their statements in a way that everything out of their mouths sounds like a question. You know the type…you’re in the middle of a conversation and when it’s their turn to speak, you don’t know if you’ve been told something or asked something. If you want to kill an interview in less than five minutes? Answer all questions asked with a high pitched “curl,” at the end. Yes, I have absolutely hired a less experienced candidate for job openings because, during the most important moments with the company, they were so concerned with getting the answer right that they, indeed, responded with an acceptable answer, but in a totally unsure way. Their facial expression was straight off of, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” And, the A to their Q&A was straight off of Jeopardy. I don’t know if they’re asking me to rephrase the question or if I’m supposed to offer them my cell to phone a friend. It only spirals when I offer to come back to the question later and they spend a solid minute rolling their eyes, giggling slightly, even if they’re nervous…no…control it. This is in interview mode, so dial it back to conversing. Do you talk with authority? If you don’t know, I’m willing to bet you don’t. It may sound harsh to say this is a reason people don’t “like” you…but it’s difficult to TRUST you when you don’t sound as if you trust yourself. Capiche? So, the next time you’re in a group, or engaged in a one on one conversation, listen to how you end your sentences. Do you sound decisive? Are you leaving your answer soft so as not to step on any toes, whatsoever? I don’t trust you. Likely, neither does anyone to whom you are speaking. You may mean well, but you don’t mean business. Toughen up, cupcake.
5.) You never do what you say you’re going to do
How many major announcements have you made in the past year? Do you get excited, committed to bettering a part of your life, buy the gear, join the group, jot to-do’s, make calls, set appointments, and generally, begin a new life project as often as you stock your fridge? Do you have the urge to tell the world about your new path? Does your commitment end with your enthusiasm? This trait is another indicator you are wishy-washy. If you have announced you are quitting a job, moving to a new location, have decided to take up a new hobby, going on some crazy adventure or just dusting off your passport because you need a change of scenery, and three months later you’re asked about said life event, only to say, (every single time) “OOh, that…yeah, that didn’t work out. I decided to go to Peru instead, next summer, but first I’m buying a house in France. It comes with a vineyard. I can tell you more about it tomorrow, I’m on my way to jiu-jitsu. Tonight’s my second lesson. I totally wanna teach this stuff.” Annnd… three months later, guess what you have done to make it all happen? None of the things. That’s right. You make announcements, somehow think people walk through magical clouds of forgetfulness as they approach you, and you owe no explanation as to why you are on your 400th endeavor never completed, and you still want to label all those who can’t get behind you, again, as “hater’s.” Finish one thing, for crying out loud. You’re a foghorn that won’t shut up. Quietly set about your goals. One day, post that picture updating everyone of your relocation to France, invite them out to your house with the vineyard and you’ll be amazed how few haters you actually have. They have grown to loathe listening to your empty words about your imaginary life. When we talk in detail about all we’re going to accomplish, and never take a first step once the excitement wanes, people are not only bored, they can get the same level of interaction with a four year old playing make believe. Make a plan. Take a step. If you fail, go back and learn from it. In a year, you’ll wish you’d started today.
Ok. All done for today. Here’s to not turning off the world with our controllable faux pas. We all have to live on the planet and we don’t have to like everyone, but keep it tolerable, Warriors. 😉