How to deal with selfishness and lack of thought when it comes to friends and family was a question I was asked this week by a lovely listener.
So I’ll take on board what they have said and make sure it’s generic enough for everyone to take something from it.
I appreciate the question but it’s important to try to consider all angles as always.
It can feel really exhausting when you feel unconsidered, un-thought of, like people are taking advantage of you or expecting from you.
I’ve definitely felt this throughout my life as I’m sure most of us have.
One thing I learned when starting to unpick it was how I wasn’t actually communicating my needs and I also wasn’t self aware enough back then to know what was really going on for me and how much I was adding my own colour to the story.
Creating meaning and assumptions that weren’t necessarily correct.
Absolutely not saying that’s what’s been going on behind this question, this is me talking from my own experience with this and what I learned in the process and found incredibly valuable.
The first thing that’s worth mentioning is, when people get used to taking, they’ll take. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re selfish.
For example, If they’re used to you being the one to organise things it can be taken for granted and not even be a thought to organise something themselves…because they assume you will! The thought might not even cross their mind.
This is when our conditioning comes in. It’s also where autopilot can take over. For the people pleasers amongst us, this is where you can easily slip into feeling incredibly taken advantage of.
It would be great if people could just understand what we might be thinking or feeling without us saying so, but the reality is they simply don’t.
So first things first when it comes to dealing with selfish people, this sounds obvious but the vast majority of people don’t do this, and that’s don’t take it personally.
Of course do your own analysis around this and figure out if you think it MIGHT be personal, communicate what needs to be communicated and if you come to that conclusion, asking yourself if that person deserves as much of you or your time in their life might be necessary.
It sounds harsh but we all have our drains and radiators in our lives. The people that sap our energy and leave us feeling drained and depleted and those that give us energy and make us feel good.
We can’t always just cut people out of our lives willy nilly and it’s certainly not always necessary. There are a lot of steps before that point. However, I am a big fan of loving some people from a distance when you know it’s best for you.
Something else to think about is, are you able to step into their shoes and see what’s going on for them?
Is there a potential valid reason for them behaving selfishly? There are SO many reasons that are often really acceptable when you take a step back and see if from their perspective.
A lot of selfish behaviour could be conditioning or put down to assumption or lack of communication, it could be It could also be due to a lack of empathy. When selfishness is due to a lack of empathy it’s unlikely to change because they simply can’t put themselves in your shoes and understand why the behaviour is damaging.
It’s always important to consider in any interaction that triggers you in any way is asking yourself, what are you making it mean? What assumptions are you making? What is underlying the discomfort or trigger? What feelings are there for you?
Communication, communication, communication. There’s so much that goes unsaid that could be so easily solved if it was talked about. We have to learn how to do that. Start small, dip your toe in the water, if it’s relevant, use a mediator, couples or family therapist to help you have the conversations and learn that it’s safe to do so.
A lot of it is about learning to be assertive and ask for what you want and or need.
Boundaries play into this hugely too. Identifying your own needs and being able to articulate them.
Remembering your part in the interaction is important, because we always have some responsibility. Please remember also responsibility isn’t about blame. Like in the earlier example, When people get used to you being the person to organise, they often just expect you to continue doing it and might not even consider it.
But if you don’t communicate what you’d prefer, or how it would make you feel, then they can never know and therefore DO any better.
Ask yourself if they’re even aware of their behaviour. If they really knew and understood how they had affected you, how might they feel and what might they do differently? Are you giving them that opportunity?
Remember that the only person whose behaviour you can ever control in any way is your own! All you can do is communicate your wants, needs and boundaries, the rest is up to them.
There is also such a thing as healthy selfishness. Are they simply trying to make sure their own needs are met? The more you’re able to meet your own needs, the more able and capable you are to look after others. It’s the age old put your own mask on first before trying to help others. You’re better equipped when your own cup is full.
Remember, sometimes when someone might accuse another person of being selfish it’s simply due to their unmet needs. It’s not necessarily about what’s wrong or right because everyone has a different map of the world that they’re operating from.
There’s always another perspective to everything. It’s not always convenient but it’s always worth looking at.
The bottom line leads back to communication. If you can communicate your needs and someone can’t meet them, you have choices.
You’re more than worthy of being treated how you treat others, and looked after how you look after others…sometimes people need a little nudge and help to see that.
Fran Excell, Success Mindset Mentor at www.franexcell.com – Helping Business Owners & Executives Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage so they can get back their time, get off the emotional rollercoaster and feel more in control.
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