You ever been in a situation where you feel like you’ve tried all the tactics, worn all the hats, rallied hard against your better judgment to try and do your level best to give someone every possible opportunity to just…do better? What about that feeling when you’re confident in your assessment of a situation, realize the other person is not able to see the truth right in front of them but still press on and try to help them to the light anyway?
You know what that does over time – all that trying and trying at the expense of your own mental health? It sucks the damn life right out of you. But what do you do? What if this person is a loved one (a spouse, parent, sibling) or a colleague (boss, peer) and there’s no hope of actually removing yourself from the circumstance? You can’t churn like a hamster on a wheel but you can’t ignore it either. So you have two choices. One of which is definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. And the other is confronting the issue in some ‘new’ way which is a little like spitting in the wind and assuming you’ll stay dry.
I have tried damn near everything with a particular person in my orbit. I have tried the soft sell, the hard sell, the written word, being a friend, being more formal, finding you/me/same/same moments, acknowledging their strengths, empathizing with their weaknesses, creating distance, closing the gap, being overly complimentary, allowing for space, being more involved…and the list goes on. Absolutely nothing works. And when the rare moment comes and things are peaceful, it never lasts for long.
So what do you do? What’s to come of YOU, if you have no choice but to constantly put your own joy in harms way because you can’t just pretend they don’t exist? As usual, I haven’t the foggiest.
I can tell you this, though. There isn’t a lick of that person’s behavior that has anything to do with me and I bet, if you’re going through something similar, that’s probably true for your situation also. Sure, I have handled a few things less than…adeptly… but I remain confident that I am largely in the right and that their behavior is based on something brewing in their own soul and spirit. And I’ll be honest with you, when this has happened before – and it has, quite a bit – it’s almost always a confidence issue. For them.
As with anything related to psychology, human behavior, or emotions – the only thing you have absolute control over is yourself. So, the only thing I can offer is a little advice I’d like to take myself.
- Realize that all of your efforts will likely be a waste of energy. If they don’t want to change or listen, they never will.
- By trying to “get through” to them, you may only be making the situation harder on yourself. Let go of the need to have healthier conversations with this person. It may never happen.
- If things are getting heated, try de-escalating without feeding the fire.
- Examine your attachment to their choices. Their challenges and choices are THEIR life lessons, not yours. Is your wanting to help them saying something about you that you need to learn?
- People who won’t help themselves usually don’t trust others OR themselves. In other words, if they won’t listen to their own inner voice, what good will your saying anything do anyway?
- Stay strong! Use your strength to combat their weakness.
And if that last one sounds a little sharp, I meant for it to! This particular person allows my confidence to define their insecurity. They have made a threat where one did not exist and what could easily happen if I don’t remind myself that I have earned this confidence is that they steal it right out from under me. Maybe I won’t be so engaging with other colleagues, partners or superiors because I don’t want them to feel left out. But what does that do except damage the relationships that I have fought so hard to build and care so much about?
Ultimately, I acknowledge there is trauma there that is not mine and that I can do nothing about. I hope and pray they find a way out of their misery before it does irreparable harm but I can not spend all my time hoping and praying for someone who sees me only in a two dimensional way and refuses to accept that there is more to me than the box they’ve put me in. All that is important is that I know my own worth and continue to bring that to whatever table I happen to be sitting at.
So if you have experienced something similar or know someone like this all I can offer is what I would offer in any situation where we don’t have as much control as we’d like. Use it to learn a bit more about yourself. Build strength and knowledge off of those uncomfortable situations they put you in. And do try to remember that for every martyr out there…every person that assumes the worst about you, there are a dozen more who think you’re the bee’s knees. We often spend an inordinate time focusing on the warts in our lives instead of remembering all the freckles. Focus on the freckles. (My niece will know what I mean there even if no one else does.)
Hang in there. I know I am….