“Speak for yourself,”
Short, sweet, and sharp…I don’t use that phrase nearly as often as I should.
Even in a world where we’re taught that not agreeing with people is rude or apathetic, I’ve got to get better at it. I guess it can be a rude phase but as I’ve established before, I don’t mind being standoffish for the sake of my sanity. If I don’t, I’ll find myself lugging behind unhappy people, right down Misery Lane. For example…
One night, my flight back to North Carolina kept getting delayed: 5:00 p.m. turned into 5:45, then 6:30, then 6:59. My layover time in Atlanta was getting shorter and shorter and I was not physically prepared to run through that huge airport. But I figured that since there was nothing I could do about the situation, it didn’t make sense for me to be angry. I said to myself, “It’ll be fine. You’ll get to Atlanta in time. You won’t miss your next flight. And you’ll be back in North Carolina before you know it” then I opened a book and tried to relax. But the lady next to me wasn’t having it. She kept saying to me how upset she was, that this had been her worst travel experience, and that we were all going to miss our connecting flights. As I listened to her complain, I could feel my anxiety and stress level rising.
In that moment, I had two choices:
1. Jump on her bitter bandwagon, agree that I was also in danger of missing my next flight, and be upset with the airline.
2. Say to her, “Speak for yourself. I’m not missing anything.”
Technically, I didn’t do either. I just smiled and thought to myself, “I don’t know about you lady, but I’m making it home tonight.” Though I’m not sure if she reached her destination, I know that I sure did (right on time, too!). And I learned an important lesson sitting next to her. We have a tendency to project our beliefs onto others, good or bad. So if you continue to agree with people just to be polite, you could end up inheriting all of their bad luck.
Coworkers will say, “We have the most boring jobs on earth.” Classmates will say, “We’ll never find good-paying jobs with this useless degree.” Friends will say, “We could never afford to shop there.” But all of those “we” statements are really “me” statements. The truth is that while they may have a useless degree and a boring job that doesn’t pay them enough money to shop where they’d like, that has nothing to do with YOU. Their perceptions are not your reality, even if it seems that you’re in the exact same situation they’re in. You can feel more rewarded than the person doing the exact same type of work you do. You can get a better job than someone with the exact same degree that you have. You can afford to do things that people closest to you cannot do. You can either be polite and unlucky right along with them, or you can stop being a yes-man (or woman) and free yourself from their sinking ship. It’s hard, but I suggest that you start cutting ties with people that insist on only looking at the glass as half empty.
You might find that your participation in negative discussion is just harmless small talk, but eventually – everything you tell yourself becomes the truth. Don’t feel obligated to attend every pity party that you receive an invitation to.