Knowing Your Place

Most of us reach a special milestone by the time we get to our late twenties and early thirties.

Weddings.

Whether you’re getting married yourself or finding an invite in the mail*, weddings definitely play a major part in our lives around this time. We see the proposal, the engagement, the planning, the invites, and all of the other goodies of the betrothed.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the Bridezilla and how a day of professing love can turn into a toxic cesspool of greed and entitlement, but the Bride and Groom aren’t the only ones that can be guilty of this. The root of wedding stress can also be traced to the ones you may not necessarily expect: the guests.

  • Uncle Joe shows up and tries to record the vows like he’s on the photographer’s team. With his iPhone 6.
  • Cousin Billy wants to bring the love of his life; the third one this month.
  • Your Maid of Honor just has to show you how to pose for your pictures. (She did get tons of compliments on hers after all)
  • That childhood friend that you’re still barely close enough to that you’d feel bad not inviting is throwing a fit because your bar won’t serve him a Jager-bomb.

These lovely examples all have one thing in common. People putting their desires above the wants and needs of the situation. Using weddings as an example is low hanging fruit and this behavior is in no way exclusive to them. Each of us has found ourselves in a situation where we have that little voice in the back of our minds, that devil on the shoulder, that says “Go ahead, take advantage and get something out of this for yourself.”

Of course, I don’t mean for you to stand by and let something fall apart or refrain from helping if you can be of genuine benefit to a situation. In those instances you should definitely offer (key word there) your services and/or skill to those involved. Most importantly, you have to be okay when you are told no. This applies to everything from events to everyday conversations.

Try to focus on how to contribute in a helpful and tactful manner. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean that the situation calls for you to pull the rug out from underneath another person or dominate the room. Bare facts don’t change minds and they certainly don’t build cooperative relationships. You have to learn how to effectively communicate with the person or group at the moment and not in a self serving manner. Your delivery makes a world of difference and can turn a genuine effort to help into what is perceived as a malicious domination by a narcissistic tool.

I say all of this not from somewhere on-high preaching to the peasants, but from a lot of hard lessons learned. I’ve said before that I used to be somewhat of a walking trivia game spouting off facts to anyone with ears. This most definitely included interjecting corrections into most conversations and correcting people over the smallest little things.

Yep. I was that guy; the wet blanket. The “Uh, actually…” guy.

And I still am. I have to actively stop myself from puking out something that would sour the conversation. Granted, it doesn’t come out into the world nearly as much as it used to, but it has been a hell of a hard habit to break. Keeping that impulse in check has caused the urges to decrease and for that I am grateful.

See, it’s perfectly fine to have a correction to make. What is important is that you take the time to consider if you should. If you do go forward, how you communicate the correction can make all the difference in the world. The turning point for me was a conversation with my wife over the phone about crystals and spirituality. She’s a believer in their energy and power to alter your state of being. I am not. At one point in the conversation, after she had shared some information about crystals, I followed up with something along the lines of “It’s not the crystals that make the change, it’s the power that you’ve attributed to them. The power of your belief makes you assign changes to the crystals”.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard someone’s enthusiasm leave them over the phone, but I did. My wife was silent for a palpable moment and then just sighed. Right there it hit me, like a bag full of crystals, it hit me: who cares? Who cares why or how the crystals work. For all I know she is completely right and they do have their own abilities to influence your life. Or maybe I’m right and it is just your personal belief that does it. Neither of those matter when my best friend and partner verbally becomes discouraged when all she wanted to do was share something she enjoyed.

That’s the point of all this. Relationships matter infinitely more than who is right, who gets the credit, or who figures out “how to get theirs”. You are being selfish and destructive in each example.

No one cares if you know some random fact or if you bully your way into being “helpful”. No one cares that you got piss drunk and made a scene. Well, they care, but only enough to remove you from the event. Being tactful and considerate is unbelievably important. Recognize when it is time to set your needs and wants to the side for a moment and let another have theirs.

Each of us has our unique set of desires, skills, and experiences that can be useful. It is our personal responsibility to be mindful of when to speak up or to keep your thoughts or desires to yourself.

Often times the best thing you can say is nothing at all. Know your place.

*Side note: I feel that no one has fully embraced the wedding e-vite yet. Why can’t I swipe to RSVP? Or better yet, rate the likelihood that a certain family member will embody the point of this article….

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