In Which I Get the Final Word (maybe)

I am trying to figure out what it means when people think everything is about them.

I say, "Palliative care can be an option for dogs" and it feels like I am saying "you screwed up by not providing palliative care."

I say, "My specialty experience sucked" and it feels like I am saying "you alone did a crappy job in your volunteer position and caused me to have a crappy experience."

You get the idea. 

This is a very common thing among teenagers, who think everything is always about them and therefore take everything very personally. In general, as we become adults we typically develop the ability to understand that other people are not always thinking about us and reacting to us -- in fact, they almost always are not.

And even if they are -- so what?

As the Newsletter Editor -- and more than once -- I took some flack for not including events/wins. 

I could have gotten all indignant and insulted and thrown down my volunteer card.

But think about it -- why would I do that? The comment wasn't, "You suck as a human being." It was an expression of disappointment over one aspect of a task I was doing. Why would that cause me to fall over myself in a fit of defensiveness and anger?! The newsletter wasn't about me, after all.

Instead, I typically agreed. I *should* have included XYZ and I made sure to try harder going forward. The feedback helped me do a better job. 

And if someone had said, "I do not enjoy the newsletter -- you are not as funny as you think you are" I would have thought about whether there was merit in the remark, and then either changed or not changed, depending on my evaluation. I certainly would not have said, "Oh yea -- you aren't funny either, except funny looking!"

Seriously.

People have a right to express their perceptions -- key word: THEIR. 

Students evaluate me all the time. In fact, I ASK for feedback because I *want* to be better. 

As Chair of the Faculty Senate -- a service position that is seriously blowing my mind this year (mostly in great ways) -- I also look for ongoing evaluative feedback about my performance. Not the "good job" feedback, although I like that, of course. No -- I want to know how I can do better, and how I can better meet my obligations to my constituents. After all, a service position is about SERVICE to others; service should never be about ego.

Bottom Line: Any person in a position that impacts other people (i.e., service) *must* be open to feedback. This includes BMDCA Specialty volunteers -- like me, by the way.

We should care about the sensitivities of others, strive to be kind and respectful, and we should try hard to clarify when we believe there is misunderstanding. However, our thoughts and feelings must not be held hostage by the fragility of another person's ego.

And if we find ourselves imagining every word, every reaction is about us -- we need to get some help because that is not how any one deserves to walk through life.

2 comments

by Deb on Mon, 02/05/2018 - 09:15

Is this about me? LOL

I agree that we are all better served by listening to others' experiences than assuming they are disrespecting us.

My mom used to say, "You wouldn't worry so much about what other people thought of you if you realized how seldom they did."

by CA Heidi :-) on Wed, 02/07/2018 - 16:03

I appreciate feedback, especially when I trust that the person giving it to me cares about me and wants to help me be my best. I am not always aware of how others feel, and knowing for sure is so much better than making up a story in my mind. For example, when I go to my next Specialty, I will be aware and will keep in mind that while I am there 'just' as a pet person, many people are competing, and that can be harried and stressful. So instead of thinking that no one wants to talk, perhaps I can volunteer to help in some way at a few events so that I have a natural venue to meet people and to help make those stressful moments better for them. Participating in what does -- and does not -- work at a Specialty helped bring a solution to mind, instead of just expecting another off-putting experience. No one said anything unkind to me about how I felt, but I got good feedback on the experience for other people, and found ways that I can be a better participant for next time. That is a win, I think.

~H

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