Here is a scenario that feels like a more-modern day thing, but I’m not sure if it is a new-world problem or not.
Person A has had a terrible day; rough time at work; bad break-up; money is tight; insert whatever tough time they are having. They turn to a friend or confidante or family member to get it out, blow off steam, bitch, and otherwise maybe get a piece of advice or empathy/sympathy (either or both).
Person B jumps in and if you are lucky says, “Gee, that sucks” and then launches into a tirade of “oh you think that is bad” “that ain’t shit” “I know what you mean, but my story is worse”. Somehow the conversation turns from your dilemma, pain, or whatever to all about them.
Can we pause for a unified collectively understood, WTF just happened.
Similarly- you’re in a disagreement with your significant other and you have a legitimate gripe about whatever behavior is irking you. Your partner jumps in with the “oh yea, what about you” story and somehow your complaint has just become their complaint about you even though the conversation was very specific to the other person. How the hell did that just happen?
These people hijack your emotion and/or situation and it becomes about them and their story.
Are we that selfish? The answer is mostly yes and not always. Lots of good listeners are out there and I know plenty. But when did air time become that much of a competition?
I had a recent situation where I confronted someone about blowing off multiple outreaches I had made regarding a life and death serious situation. Literally, Facebook, text, email, and phone calls were made over several months. No response. Suddenly the other person has a small crisis and has reappeared. I wasn’t exactly patient with the reappearance and complete lack of regard or ownership of not being there in the time of need. Especially when this person has a true understanding of the situation I was in.
I spoke up for myself. Many people would have let it slide but I was pretty upset. Don’t ignore that I spent all that time reaching out to let you know what was going on.
So, I say, Hey. Planes, trains, and automobiles trying to get in touch with you last summer. I get a barrage of excuses and then suddenly, somehow, all of the emotion attached to the situation are being hijacked. They went offline and I hadn’t noticed. They are in a crisis and where am I? They have X, Y, and Z going on and they’re sorry for what we went through BUT! theirs is so much MORE.
Wait. No. I sat there and had to weigh it out. No. That is not ok. You are not going to hijack this. This was serious. You get bent when you’re not in the loop and I went above and beyond for nothing and it was very hurtful. You do not get to hijack it. You have to own your behavior here.
Twist. Turn. Excuse. Triple Lindy later. Somehow we’re talking about their broken fence and where they want to retire and the crisis of can they afford it and how can I (me) help them? Am I there for them?
You just did it again. Stop stealing this emotion of feeling abandoned by a friend/family member. Stop pulling this off of me and making it about you. We can all be selfish but hijacking my emotions is A-Not-Ok.
It was quite rewarding to stand up for myself and say, “No.” I was calm. I didn’t scream, badger, or otherwise. I really wanted to be careful and I took my time and I spelled it out. You’re wrong. Your timeline is screwy and the reasons are off. I get you feel bad but not owning is disrespectful in this serious situation and quite frankly, it hurt. I do want to continue to have a relationship with you but I reject hearing about your stupid fence as an excuse to somehow put an onus on me that I somehow let you down and it’s not your fault you let me down.
Firstly, re-reading that is ridiculous, and secondly, own your shit. So now, if you can acknowledge that this time you’re the asshole I’d like to put this behind us and not into the scorebook and not discuss it again so we can move forward. Oh, and don’t do that to me again because I don’t like it.
It is like somehow we’ve become in competition with one another over which family is the most fucked up. Who had it the worst. Who has the worst boss or parents. Oh you think that is bad, get a load of THIS. Why is the worst now the best? Why do we have to diminish each other’s pain as less in favor of our own being so much more? I own it because I know I do it. I have caught myself doing it. I hate it for myself and I can control that by knocking it off. I hate it being done to me and I have a piece of that I can control and that is simply not being around it if it keeps happening. I don’t have to listen to it and others have that right when it comes to me.
I’m one person but I look in the mirror and I have a conversation with myself and I say, Stop petting your own peeve. So I did.
My husband gets annoyed with me over something stupid I did and instead of going, “Oh yeah sukka?! What about you doing the same thing to me?” I’ve started taking the ownership of my part in his grievance. Ahhh, there’s a slight wifely, sweet victory in the look on his face when I say, “You’re right. I’m wrong. I shouldn’t do that and I owe you a real apology. I’m am sorry and I’m going to try really hard not to do that to you again.”
He’s sitting there puzzled with a twisted look on his face. He is waiting for the fight. He’s in his bunker and he’s ready for the history lesson of whatever he or someone else had done to me that was the same, or similar, or even stupidly unrelated so I can hijack his feelings, make it about me, and somehow evade accountability. He’s tempted to check my pulse to see if body snatchers have invaded me and I’m not pumping red blood anymore.
It never comes. A piece of me actually enjoyed that process. I kind of laugh at the memory of him sitting there with his arsenal of “oh yeah” bombs waiting to be lobbed at me and no opportunity to throw them. But, but, I have all these awesome grenades, and snowballs, and nuclear bombs because YOU were wrong. I know I was wrong. You are right. He’s almost conveying in his confusion a “stop doing that” look and here is where we fight, pause, then I get to be right and you’re the asshole. That’s the timeline and please read the married couple lack of communication booklet the JP provided us. I sit there skipping the middle knowing I’m the asshole in this situation and he’s puzzled. It was pretty funny and I’ll admit to my ego, slightly awesome.
After implementing that self-accountability into my own life and I’m not exactly perfect with it but I am working on it, I do find myself lacking patience with the hijackers around me.
I’ll soapbox and tell all 7 people that read this to stop it. I’m not sure if this is new to the modern age or not. It feels new that we’re all a bunch of coddled baby Americans sitting at our laptops or on our phones seeking immediate gratification and hugs for all the ails in our lives and it feels old at the same time because we’re human first and people don’t like to be wrong.
Either way. Be better to each other.