I am a highly sensitive person. What some (especially my husband) might call “over-sensitive”. The actions of others often leave me feeling sad, upset, embarrassed, or humiliated, often over little things. Rationally, I know I am over-reacting, but that does not keep me from dwelling on whatever may have happened.
I am hoping that in the next few months, I can learn to get over this. I have made significant strides in this department. Now I dwell for days not weeks but still, there is room for improvement.
What I have realized as I have thought about this, is I rarely have a problem with the message being delivered-the problem is usually the delivery of that message.
I’ll give you an example. The other day, my husband and son were playing tennis at the tennis courts behind our house. The tennis courts are literally in my backyard, beyond the fence. I needed to ask him something so I walked around, onto the court. I then walked along the edge of the fence, trying to stay out of the way, made my way to my husband, had a quick chat and walked back. As I walked back, one of the players was really rude to me. What I didn’t know is that is that in tennis, you need to wait until play has stopped before crossing the court. Me trying to stay out of the way wasn’t good enough.
Here is my issue. I was wrong. I didn’t know. It was, most definitely, my bad. But did the guy have to be a jerk about it? Or could he have said, “Hey-just so you know for next time, this is the etiquette”. I would have been embarrassed, apologized and learned my lesson. Was it necessary to be condescending and rude?
Another time I was driving and hesitated for 5 seconds as I tried to figure out if I was going right or left. The truck behind me accelerated to pass and the driver stuck out his middle finger. Really? Again, my mistake, my hesitation but do we really have to be so mean?
And yet another time, I was at my brother’s wedding. We were in Calgary and my boys were 2 and 4. They were exhausted, off schedule and sleep deprived. They were being monsters. I turned to an older woman who has children older than mine and asked her how to keep them from being so rotten. She answered with “Well, I don’t label my children”. It was amazing how much arrogance, self-righteousness and judgment was conveyed in a single sentence. She made me feel so terrible, so small, and like the worst mother on the planet.
But looking back, I now realize that it wasn’t me. It was them. I am only human. I make mistakes. And as much as I would like to claim to know it all, I don’t. But the people who are rude and mean and treat others with disrespect have the real issues. Perhaps they have something going on. Perhaps there is some tragedy, some stress or pressing issue that makes them impatient, short and angry. Or perhaps they are just jerks by nature. In either case, it’s not about me. If I am feeling very generous, I may even give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just having a bad day but I am hoping that from now on, I won’t let the actions of others affect me as much as they have in the past.
I try to remember this when it comes to my own choices as well. I try to choose my words carefully. Think about the impact of my words or actions. I try to emphasize this to my children. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. An apology can do damage control but it won’t reverse the impact of mean and callous behaviour. I always tell them to be kind in their delivery. The message will be much better received. Be empathetic. Think about others.
And in the end, when someone treats you with disrespect or is generally unkind, just remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them.