Posted by: Jo Banks
How to avoid getting into the 'wrong' type of competition...
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few clients mention an issue that I thought was worthwhile highlighting. I like to sum it up as the ‘My Life Is Worse Than Yours’ competition.
Client 1 for the past nine months has been undergoing various treatments for a potentially serious health condition. When she was first diagnosed, she made a conscious decision only to tell a few people as she didn't want to spread unnecessary negativity and certainly didn't want people's pity. Whilst much of the treatment has been quite brutal, and I know it has been painful, not once have I heard her complain. She has maintained her positivity throughout.
Her gripe is that of the few people she has told, a couple have launched into a full onslaught about how their sister's/mother/husband had a similar condition but that theirs was so much worse. They have proceeded to give a detailed description of their treatment, explaining the devastating effect it's had on them/their family. This has left my usually happy, positive client feeling angry and upset that these people would think it appropriate to share such information with her while she is mid-treatment and trying her utmost to maintain her positivity. She said, “I just can’t hear about other people's problems right now, nor do I have the mental or physical capacity to help them. What’s wrong with people? They can be so insensitive.”
Client 2 recently lost her sister prematurely. She has been coping admirably despite being understandably devastated. However, she has really struggled with people telling her how they felt when one of their close family members died. She said that she can’t believe how people want to tell her every detail about how they felt and what they went through. She said she just wants to yell, ‘THIS IS ABOUT ME! THIS IS ABOUT ME AND MY SISTER - NOT YOU AND YOUR PROBLEMS. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU RIGHT NOW!’.
Client 3 was made redundant without warning as his employer went into liquidation, leaving him and his colleagues with no salary and a protracted wait for redundancy pay. He told me that he is amazed how some people have reacted, launching their story of woe (even though they were currently in a great position). Something that he just didn't need to hear at that point.
I'm sure that people don't do it on purpose, they just don't think about the consequences of what they're saying. Also, we often can tend to believe that our problems are worse than anyone else's. Not to mention the fact that many people want to win – at everything!
When someone opens up and tells us about something personal, it's one thing to have empathy with them; it’s entirely something else to turn it into a competition. Usually, at the point someone shares their problems, they are doing it for a reason. Remember, it's about them, not you!
So, the next time you’re tempted to launch into, “Well my ‘story’ is so much worse than yours ….” Ask yourself,
‘Is this really a competition I want to win?'
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