It’s a good thing I work from home. For the most part, I know my audience is… well… me. So, after a call or while talking through creative concepts, I can laugh at myself or swear out of frustration and know that no one heard me. I think my biggest fear from working at home is that I will someday lose that filter and judgment and not know when to say something, what the right thing to say is, and when it’s best to simply shut up.
This is the work world. And if I can pride myself on anything, it’s that I think I will always have the intuitive ability to know what/when/how to deliver what I need to say. I can read the person I’m talking to like a book (even at first meeting), and respond appropriately for the occasion. I don’t ruffle feathers. I don’t need to bite my tongue. I don’t get mad or lose my cool under pressure. I can speak PhD nerd, talk financials with an accountant, pretend I’m super creative to an agency exec, or be a smartass on a construction site. And I think that’s why I’ve been successful in so many of my jobs.
However, in my personal life, especially my life over the past six months, my filter and ability to handle people not knowing their audience is seriously on the fray. I find myself sitting staring blankly at people, hearing (not listening), and thinking over and over and over –WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? Can they be more annoying and rude? Do they know who they are talking to? Do they know what’s going on in my life? Do they know that I would KILL for those struggles and troubles? Do they know what I have in checking (uh, $238) when they complain about money? Do they know what I’d give to spend my nights running around to activities instead of planning my month/vacation hours around Children’s hospital and therapy? But here is the thing.
They don’t know. They don’t think of me as an audience. Life isn’t business (even if I wish it was – think of my long list of titles). They may not have the ability to know. They may not be emotionally capable of trying to know. They may not have the desire to put themselves in my shoes to think through what is about to come out of their mouth. And for that, I am learning, and trying so desperately to be patient and be kind. And less bitter. And I know (sometimes) that this is going to help me in ways that I simply cannot comprehend.
So, if I can offer anything… to the person going on about their first world problems – it’s this:
Please do share your problems. They are real for you. I want to hear about them. That’s what friends are for. I want to know what’s upsetting you and stressing you out.
But PLEASE, just acknowledge me first. Acknowledge that you realize, in spite of the things I’m faced with, your issues are trivial and you are blessed to have them. And then proceed like you always used to. It’s as simple as… ‘I know that no one in this world should complain to you, but’ or ‘I feel awful telling you about my ‘bad’ day when I know yours …’Or, ‘No one needs a vacation more than you guys, but we simply cannot wait to get away.’ COOL. I want this for you too. Our friendship is not a competition. I never want it to be. But take the 5 seconds to preface what you are about to say to help me listen instead of make me want to preach.
For the person who feels their world is crashing down and has a sick child, I offer this:
People don’t mean it. They don’t think. They don’t say the right things. Even if they spent a week doing what you did and having the racing thoughts and future dreams dashed by a diagnosis, they wouldn’t get it. Let it go. It’s not a competition, but you’ve won the right to always feel slightly jaded. Just remember that happiness is a choice – and jealousy does nothing to benefit our babies. And nothing to benefit us. And if you are me, the only benefit will be on your ass or in the form of love handles as you stress eat starburst jelly beans.
If we all would just acknowledge each other’s issues – what a freaking amazing place this world could be.
It will be okay.