You’re starting a business. Getting a promotion. Having a baby. Traveling around the world. Getting married. Moving in with your boy/girl/personfriend. Pursuing a new hobby, fitness regime, eating program, parenting approach. Proclaiming your love for a new band you’ve discovered. Sharing a blog post you’re proud of. Whatever. Fill in the blank, from the mundane to the life-changing.
You know him or her. The person who says, in response to your news and often unsolicited:
“That’s great! But …”
- Here’s what I know that you should know
- Here’s how I did it too/better/more awesomely
- Here’s you ought to look out for
- Here’s why that’s too risky/not risky enough
- Been there, done that.
- Here’s how many people have tried that and failed
You get the drift.
I won’t negate the possibility that there are mostly well-meaning people out there who will tell you that their input is meant to be supportive, or helpful, or otherwise provide guidance and advice that they themselves may have found valuable once upon a time. We are humans that do thrive on affinity and find connection in shared experiences, too, in our similarities as much as our differences. That’s true enough.
We share news and adventures and discoveries with the world for a bunch of reasons. We’re proud. We want to celebrate. We want to share something that’s new and exciting to us in hopes that more people will find joy in it, too. We want to show people what’s possible. Sure, maybe we even crave a bit of affirmation and support.
The difficulty is that many people don’t have a clue how to be genuinely happy for someone else, or encourage them in an important moment without forcing in their personal commentary, opinion, or self-doubt.
It’s also true that many people warn others off – consciously or otherwise – using precisely the reasons that have scared them away from doing something that they wanted to do, or prevented them from pursuing or enjoying something of their own.
I’m guilty, too. I’ve certainly done my fair share of “That’s awesome, now let me tell you my experience”s in the past without being asked. I’ve even let my own fear of a thing tumble out in a string of words warning someone off about that thing. Shame on me, right? I’m not particularly proud of that, and when I noticed how much it hurt when people did it to me, I became so much more conscious of how and when I do it to others.
The truest definition of grace is being able to look at someone over there – doing something you want to do, feeling something you want to feel, having something you want to have – and finding happiness for their sake. Without caveats.
Behind every “should”, “ought”, “need to”, there is judgment. Behind every “Oh yeah? Here’s MY story” is the need for a bit of attention in the midst of someone else’s moment. The me-too/one-up can be well-intended (look at us having something in common!) but requires deftness and true humility to be executed well while still supporting the person in question. More often, it backfires. The tricky part?
If you’re on the other end of a statements like these, you might feel slighted or deflated, even hurt. Doubtful of your decision to share. Wondering who and what you should listen to, and when. Letting other people instill doubt in you is like a virus. It feeds on itself. Likewise with letting someone’s momentary self-centeredness derail you from a happy moment or a decision that’s important to you.
The most graceful reply you can offer is simply “Thank you so much for sharing your point of view.” With a smile. And move on. Most people mean well, or will tell you they do, and you can leave them with the benefit of the doubt for that.
But don’t give in to the Killjoy.
He’s unkind in the moments when we need to enjoy our own promise, hope, success, and happiness. We need our own joy and ideas of what could be to fuel our determination when things are bumpy. We also need to trust our own intuition sometimes and be our own champions.
I’ve learned that the greatest – and sometimes most difficult – gift that I can give to myself is to actually be happy. The greatest gift you can give someone is likely to see them happy, and be happy for them. Grace is not an easy thing, or we would all demonstrate it effortlessly. But the Killjoy can really take the wind out of someone’s sails when they need it most. Let’s make each other a promise that we’ll work hard not to be one.