Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is this really about me?

So...

I've started writing this little story about a lady named Pearl and at one point she tells me she wants me to say something about people asking how she is doing and then turning it around and making it about themselves. (I know this sounds crazy but sometimes I write stories like this...just let the character tell me what to write...yea, I know...sometimes I feel like I'm two tacos short of the combination plate!)

But you know what I mean, right? It is almost like the asked question becomes a competitive forum for their own issues, problems and experiences.

And I was thinking about that.

I don't like when people take a situation and compete with it. There you are, vulnerable, telling the truth of your soul and someone takes what you're telling and negates it by some quantifying remark. I know this has happened to you. The person says, "you don't seem like yourself, is anything wrong?" and then you say, "OK, yea, gee, I'm feeling down because I have to have surgery" and then they reply, "You think that's bad? I had 12 surgeries in a 27 day time frame AND I still went to work every day while training for the marathon."

And you stand there feeling like a moron. And you feel like your emotion and worry has suddenly become minor and invalid. And you wonder "why did you even ask me?"

It totally astonishes me.

I'm not talking about when we're talking to a friend or reading a blog and we tell about our own experiences to help someone through. To help them understand they aren't alone. Common ground can be comforting. And then "Is this really about me" becomes "can my life experiences help you." And that's cool. And great. And I love when people offer this as comfort.

But I've seen the competitive interjection and that makes me sad. And angry.

It always reminds me of a movie I saw once where the guy was showing a surgical scar, and then the lady showed hers, and then he showed another one...and pretty soon it became a big "you think that's bad? Look at this!" match!

Why do people do that anyway?

Because really when a person is sharing their pain or showing their scars, it's because they need me to listen and to show I understand. Not to compete with them.

So, yea. Even though I'm missing the tacos, I'm still thankful that Pearl told me about this.

And I'm going to be more careful.

So next time if you want to share something with me, I promise I won't show you my appendectomy or hysterectomy scars even though they are probably wayyyy bigger than any scars you have.

ACCCKKK!!!!

OK. I need to work on putting this philosophy into practice.

And next time, I'll try really, really hard to not make it about me!


post signature

41 comments:

5thsister said...

Oh good grief! You are not alone in this habit. I am queen of my own little universe and as my husband likes to tell me, quite often, "it's not always about you" but I digress because it "feels" as if it is...especially when one is working through difficult issues and trying to come to terms with her past. If I do this to you, please know it is in no way trying to put myself "ahead" of you but rather as a way to empathize. I'm probably doing that all wrong, too.

God bless and keep being just you!

Theresa said...

My husband does that sometimes and it drives me nutty:) Enjoy your day and by the way, I have only ONE tiny little scar:)

Paula said...

you wanna talk about scars??!! I wish I could show you!
lol:)
I never do that, that 'it's all about me thing', never. honest.
:) :)

Terra said...

I have to say, I like hearing about other peoples scars, sometimes it helps me heal my own.

Bits-n-Pieces said...

It's not about taking over the conversation or making it about you, necessarily. It's about making a connection to the other person...a shared feeling or experience, letting the other person know that "you've been there." sure..sometimes we overdo it and our friend may just want someone to listen and not sympathize, but I don't think we (and I do say WE) do it on purpose, we don't do it to sabotage the other person's feelings or invalidate them or anything. We just have to share!

Bonnie@Creative Decorating said...

Thank goodness I'm not the only one that realizes she does this!! See just turned it around about me! lol

Seriously, it makes me sad when this happens and after working on a Proverbs 31 Woman series, I have tried to make a special effort to stop my brain and just listen when someone is talking. It is hard!

If someone interjects while I am venting and turns it around about them, I now just stop talking and let them vent. I figure their issues must be more important so I am done then talking about me. Maybe they will figure it out... or maybe they won't have a clue. I just know after a couple times, I don't vent to that person anymore.

Thanks for your wonderful post Jenny! I like it when you vent or tell us your not perfect!!! Then you fit right in with me!!

Viki said...

I do this all the time. I think it's more though to show a person I have had a similar experience and I can relate. I do think though sometimes I do go overboard and don't listen as well as I probably should.

Jocelyn said...

OOPS....I can admit to this also....bad Me!!!!

So...I will make an effort!!!!

Have a great day!!!

Wanda..... said...

I agree with the others...it comes from wanting to share a 'sameness'...empathic people want others to know why they understand and can relate! I don't look at it as a one upmanship at all. Fun post Jenny...I like it when it's all about YOU!

Aging Mommy said...

I do it ALL the time - like your story about being stung in bed and I had to tell you about being stung by a bee and bitten by a spider. See, there I go again :-)

Seriously though, sometimes people want to hear your own experiences. I know I do if I write about something very close to my heart. When I wrote about my sister's financial troubles and the impact they were having on my parents I was first amazed and then somehow comforted by all the comments I received telling me how many other families have to deal with this. When I talked about PPD it was only then that I realized I was so not alone and it helped with the healing.

Quilting in My Pyjamas said...

Seriously I think this is part of the human condition and there are very few people that dont do it.

I "listen" for a living so let me tell you when I'm not being paid it IS all about me. Mostly.

And I completely agree that people tell you about their own experience so you know they have a point of reference about the situation you're describing.

You just keep being your Mrs. Jenny. Your interjections have helped more people than they've harmed I'm sure.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

i apologize.

mub said...

I remember this one time when I did the EXACT SAME THING ;)

I think it's normal really. You're trying to make a connection with someone. I always feel really shallow when I just leave messages like "oh, sorry to hear that." I FEEL like I need to say something more... poignant or something.

Jeanie said...

Oh, know I am way worse than you about that....there was this time that I- oops, never mind.

Carol said...

O*M*G! You are a few tacos short! I've 'known' you a while now, I would have never of thought of you in the manner you speak. You have life experiences that are helpful, and a wise person will learn from you. Oh, and one more thing...I have no scars...I'm perfect!! ROFLMBO!!!

Susan said...

I agree with everyone, we all do this at one time or another.
I worked with a gal that did this all the time. You almost wanted to avoid her so you wouldn't hear her problems. She did that "one up" thing.
And then I realized, she need someone to hear about her problems. And, boy does she have problems.
Thank you however, for bringing this to our attention.
We should all open our ears and not our mouth.
Susan

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

I think it is such a fine line between offering information that might help someone and turning the conversation around to your own story. Sometimes I feel very guilty of that, when actually...I don't like the story being about me. I just worry that sometimes in my support it might come across that way.

The real key is knowing when to listen. Listening to someone is truly a wonderful gift you can give to them.

June Freaking Cleaver said...

If I feel a need to unload on someone who just asks, "How are you?", I try to say, "Can I vent for a bit?" first. After MY cathartic release, then it's their turn - boy, I bet they hate that they asked me in the first place, huh?

But yes, I've had that happen - I'm sure we all have.

Ya know what bugs me more than that? It's when the other person vents about the SAME THING ALL THE TIME, and asks my advice - AND THEY NEVER TAKE THE ADVICE! Why the heck did they ask me?

I have started distancing myself from people like that; I begin resenting the time that I took to care in the first place.

Kari said...

I know for me I do that when I am feeling insecure about myself or worse, kinda hate myself. So you do your very best to somehow build yourself up. Even to the detriment of friendships. Kinda ironic certainly not funny and what a viscous cycle. I'll show you how much worse I got it. Oh man, I just turned you off and now you think I'm a jerk. Dang I can't stand myself.....on and on it goes.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Jenny great post! I try to share my life experiences but I never want to negate what someone is going through. I had a 'friend' who did that all the time. No matter what was going on with me, "My Dad just died" or "I stubbed my toe" she was always way sadder or more hurt or whatever. I stopped sharing with her because it was ALWAYS about her and well sometimes it just needed to be about me. You don't do that, you just share you life stories with us!!

Sue said...

Listen, my friend. You haven't even SEEN a hysterectomy scar until you've clapped your eyes on mine.

And that's the truth.

;)

Marlene said...

Where? Where are the scar pictures? I wanna see! :)

Cheryl D. said...

You should check out my c-section scar! LOL

The thing getting on my nerves with some blog comments is that people either jump in to say what a great mom I am even though they have no clue if I'm actually a good mom! They will also jump in to comment on how bad another mom is! E.g., I just posted on how a mom dropped off her daughter and forgot to tell me not to give her sugar. It happens. She didn't get angry that I did. I thought I shared a funny story, but the majority of comments criticized the mom. I don't think that's entirely necessary.

I LOVE getting comments. But I write a blog and people should get I do try to write for entertainment purposes (except for the occasional educational thread).

Tina said...

Yeah, it's a fine balance between "I understand because I've been there" and "That's nothing, I've suffered more." A very delicate balance. And I think this is something we all need to be aware of, because it seems everyone does this at some point. And knowing the problem, perhaps it can be prevented. Just go ahead and rant, isn't that one of the purposes of blogging? {{hugs}}

Jessica B said...

I like what June F. C. said about starting off with "Can I vent for a bit." I think that is a great way of putting it out there that the conversation or "venting" needs to be about you, for a bit. Sometimes it is just nice to have someone really LISTEN.

I recognized this in myself several years ago when I saw a clip about the same thing somewhere -- I told my sisters about it, and now, when we feel like we are monopolizing or turning the conversation around to ourselves, we jokingly say "And now, lets get back to me."

Sometimes a little humor goes a long way.

Cheryl said...

I've learned there is a fine line here. A very fine line. Identifying with what another is saying or going through is one thing. One-upsmanship quite another.

"I'm sorry you're having such a tough time with this. I remember what it was like when I went through this with my own child. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Oh I remember how hard it was when Jennifer had the same issues. I cried all day and night. I couldn't stop thinking about how I could help her. It was awful."

See what I mean? Identification and reaching out vs. self-centered and taking the stage.

{ L } said...

Yes! I agree, I've never like this...however you really made me search my heart with this post. When you wrote about the surgery comparison it reminded me of a conversation I had with my husband last week. His back has been really sore and bothering him and he was sharing with me and I did the TABOO response that you talked about here! :( I told him that I understood because my back is always having problems, blah, blah, blah... I didn't realize I just did that unattractive, selfish and competitive conversation until you pointed it out today! I owe him a hug and apology. Thank you for this little lesson today Jenny. ((hugs))

fredamans said...

Me, Moi, Mine.... I can go for that. Oh I just turned it about myself....

Jennifer said...

Oh. My. Gosh, Jenny...

I couldn't agree with you more, here....

It has become one of my biggest pet peeves when someone has to turn every situation into something about themselves...

I find it all the time on campus, and it's tiring... It makes me just want to curl up into my usual comfortable, reclusive form and give up on trying to make conversation or express myself.

Sigh...

I don't mind swapping war stories, but when the person begins with, "Oh, don't even talk to me about that..." and then proceeds to tell a "bigger" story I typically tune them out... It's called getting it off my chest... We all have things we need to vent about... Geez!

Haha, okay, I'm done filling up your comment box. Hope your day is awesome!

Jennifer said...

Oh. My. Gosh, Jenny...

I couldn't agree with you more, here....

It has become one of my biggest pet peeves when someone has to turn every situation into something about themselves...

I find it all the time on campus, and it's tiring... It makes me just want to curl up into my usual comfortable, reclusive form and give up on trying to make conversation or express myself.

Sigh...

I don't mind swapping war stories, but when the person begins with, "Oh, don't even talk to me about that..." and then proceeds to tell a "bigger" story I typically tune them out... It's called getting it off my chest... We all have things we need to vent about... Geez!

Haha, okay, I'm done filling up your comment box. Hope your day is awesome!

Amy said...

Oh, Jenny. You are too hard on yourself. I don't think you are a big one upper. But I do have to say, I hate when people leave comments that don't even acknowledge what your post was about, and just talk about them or their family because you reminded them of something. Grrr! Thankfully, because I have noticed how much I hate it when people do that to me, I try not to do it in any of my comments.

Nancy C said...

Bless you heart. Seriously. So many people don't face their habits head-on. I know I could do better about not interrupting or making it about me.

I love your kind heart.

My Grama's Soul said...

Hello Jenny.....I haven't been by in eons!!! Forgive me for that.....as usual your post is worth pondering...and a good ponder it is ... I might add!! Hmmmm....I think the label for what your talk about is being self-absorbed. No one likes to admit they are....but I think at one time or another it afflicts all of us. If it didn't we would all be called JESUS....AND I DON'T BELIEVE IN THE WORLD TODAY THERE IS MUCH OF A CHANCE OF THAT HAPPENING.

Great post!!!!

Xo

Jo

Mumsy said...

Thanks for this post, gives me something else to try to improve on. I try not compare myself to anyone or their lives etc. but I am sure that I most probably have at times.

You made me want a taco. LOL

Hugs

ain't for city gals said...

Girl, this is so true of what people do...I think I used to but have tried not to anymore. So many people don't even listen to what you have to say...they are thinking what THEY are going to say next! All about ego...or maybe lack of..

Pondside said...

It's human nature, I think.
Thanks for the well-written reminder, though - I think I can use it.

The Words Crafter said...

I was trying to thing of something clever and sassy to say....and my mind went blank. Great post and an even better check for us as bloggers and comment-ers. I'm getting a red squiggly line for the word commenters. Tried it with an 'ors' too. Ah well. I'll leave it be and listen to Gordon Lightfoot. Bringing back memories....thanks for that!

Ames said...

I can indentify with your frustration. Remember this, what you have to say is worthy of being heard. And regardless of who it is, there's no excuse for rudeness. Unless the person has been diagnosed as narcissistic, I blame it on the way people have been raised. People aren't taught manners anymore. I had a toxic friend who continually did this to me. I would make myself sick over being treated like I was inconsequential and finally did myself a favor and backed away from our friendship. I feel so much better too. Don't let people or worries like that take up free space in your mind. There's something to be said about good mental health!~Ames

Busy Bee Suz said...

I hate it when people make me feel like a total moron.
I do love it though when people take me out for a taco. Morons or not. :)

Julie Schuler said...

Sometimes people are just bad listeners. What's even worse is when you are airing an issue and your "friend" starts arguing the side of your antagonist. Blech!

Chatty Crone said...

They are unsensitive! sandie