Thursday, July 29, 2010

It’s Not About You

“It’s not you, it’s me.” A cliched breakup line? Yes, it is. A true statement? Yes, again.

So often, when I’m talking to people, they’re stressed about someone else’s reaction to something that happened. They told a story, and the listener wasn’t paying attention. They tried to invite someone for lunch and the invitation wasn’t accepted. Or, a close friend has drifted away, for no clear reason. Then they start analyzing, worrying, ruminating. “What did I do wrong?” “Why does this always happen?” What should I do differently next time?”

For individuals with any degree of anxiety about social interactions, these “rejections” can feel so devastating, so personal. Of course it’s important to examine the situation, see if you did play some role in things not working out too well. But then, it’s okay to let it go and stop dwelling on it. We all lead busy lives, with so many obligations, pulled in so many different directions. Most of the time, you didn’t do anything wrong. You colleague really does have something else to do at lunchtime. Or, your story was fine, the listener was just caught up in remembering an important obligation.

Often, the true social damage happens after this minor disconnect. An insecure individual can read too much into it, start over-thinking, get too worried, pull back too much, turn a little issue into a big pattern of social issues. On the other hand, socially confident people assume the best, about their ability to be a good friend, and their interactions with others. If a friend says he’s busy, they assume he is, and issue the invitation again. If an invitation is rejected, they try again. After all, chances are, it’s about them, not you.