Before you tackle me thinking “Oh God…a cry for help…a moody hipster and her tumblr-like post…”
(I promise this post is not what you’re thinking.)
I’d like to start this post with a quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie . It is pretty profound and scarily accurate: “A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people,” He writes. “A boil on one’s neck interests one more than forty earthquakes in Africa.”
You may agree or disagree with this, but I think we can all say generally people are pretty self-centered. There are some exceptions, but for the majority this is true. It makes sense, think about it, we wouldn’t get our needs met if we weren’t and we would die. This is a primal instinct. Except we went from stockpiling food, to our phone being filled with selfies. Don’t deny it everyone has at least one selfie on their phone 😉 We have to watch out for ourselves, but there are positives and negatives that come with this.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t allow time for others. I have heard the phrase “no one is listening to me” so much over the last couple of years especially. The problem is getting worse because technology allows us to tune one another out completely. We are so connected that we are isolating ourselves, as crazy as this sounds, you know it’s true.
I saw a mother and her young daughter at a restaurant recently and the mom was staring down at her phone throughout the entire meal. Every time the little girl would say something the mom would either say “Oh that’s nice..” and continue staring down at her phone. Finally the little girl just didn’t say anything at all.
By not listening to others we are training them to not speak their feelings or consequently training them to be heard and to gain attention through unhealthy means. Such as promiscuity, acting out…etc. So don’t complain the next time you see someone acting out. Instead think “Hmm that person feels unheard.”
We live in the age of the self-made celebrity with Facebook, YouTube, Vine and Instagram. If we’re not careful we can use these sites to get our so called “feeling of importance.” But this is a false sense of importance. We should instead be obtaining these feelings through getting involved with those little things that satisfy us/make us feel whole, and by making friends that genuinely care about our well being. And if you aren’t feeling your sense of importance now, move on to the next activity or group of people until you solidify that feeling.
The Good News
OK, so one thing I do know, is hey, if everyone is so focused on themselves then those little things you think people notice…they don’t. That little pimple on your cheek…yeah Travis over there cares more about his exam tomorrow. The little awkward cowlick you woke up with, Jessica has five minutes to walk all the way across campus before she’ll be late for class…again.
This can be very freeing! Not saying you should walk around with a Wonder Woman costume on to get people to look at you…remember what I said about negative attention? Yeah don’t do it…so not worth it.
Remember this the next time you get hyper-focused on the way you look or what you are doing. I have to remind myself of this all the time…because I get so obsessed with what others are thinking, but remember they aren’t thinking about you, they are thinking about themselves. Yay! Good news for socially awkward people everywhere (me included).
Now What to Do
Be different. Go against that need to focus on yourself all the time. The best advice that anyone ever gave me when I was caught in my trap of worry was to volunteer. Brilliant! You get a big swift in prospective this way. Suddenly you focus on other’s problems and not your own. Very therapeutic…
Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions! Make other people feel heard. Put the phone, the tablet, the apple watch, the kindle, the laptop, and your selfie face away. (Eww no one wants to see that anyway…) Just listen. This is so much harder said than done for sure. Try not to interrupt and try not to think about the next point you’re going to say. Just listen fully. Nod and maintain eye contact.
This will really make you stand out! People will notice and they will flock to you. Especially when it comes to dating, you ask a man questions about himself…it’s over. Put the ring on your finger, hire the photographer you’ve just been hitched.
Again in Winning Friends and Influencing People Dale Carnegie wrote this :“The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage.”
We can change this one conversation at a time. Listen, but also be heard! Practice listening and speaking with your friends and find a good balance. My rule is 60-40 if you initiate a conversation let that person speak 60% of the time and you’ll speak 40%. Now obviously this rule must be broken in certain situations, but for a casual conversation I think this sounds right.
Together we can make people feel heard and cared about!
Practice listening-Goal for the week.