My job, which I really love, may be eliminated because of economic issues. It’s a large organization, so many other employees are in the same position. I won’t get laid off, but rather involuntarily reassigned to another position where there’s a chance I may not like it or may receive less pay. The trouble is that people at work (some of whom never talked to me before) come up and ask how I feel about my position being on the list of possible cuts. I think it is hurtful and insensitive. Do they think I don’t worry about it? This has happened five times in the last week. I’m a positive person and know that wherever I land I’ll be fine. But I wonder what would make people act like that?
Oh, sweetie! Your co-workers have no clue about how they should behave under the circumstances. People who are immersed in stressful environments and who are unskilled at sorting through life’s emotional baggage sometimes ask questions like those posed to you because they need instructions on how they should behave. Since you are a self-described positive person, co-workers are probably hoping to learn, from you, how to have a good attitude during an economic downturn. Their attraction to your goodness is likely unconscious, though, so don’t take their egocentrism personally. That means don’t let yourself feel inflated (special) or deflated (awful) by these casual interactions.
When people in our lives display more curiosity than concern, it tends to surprise or even hurt us. But as a rule, human beings love poorly. You can make a different choice by being compassionate toward yourself. Here’s a spiritual practice that can help: Each time someone asks how you feel about your job being on the hit list, take a moment to go inside yourself and check in. Notice what arises and express that. You might say: “I am as curious as you are. It’s like a mystery novel and I haven’t yet reached the last page,” or “I feel sad that so much of our focus is going into something we can’t control.” Or “I am annoyed that people suddenly think it’s the most interesting thing about me.” But stick to their question, not your interpretation of it (how you feel about being asked how you feel).
I also want to invite you to be compassionate toward your co-workers. They obviously don’t know how their behavior impacts you, so give them a break. You can also playfully attempt the Socratic method by responding to a question with a question (“Since you’re asking, it’s clearly on your mind, so how do you feel about it?”). You will likely get an earful of their fears and financial woes, which will allow you to practice comforting and uplifting them. That’s a grand way to share your optimism.
I have a friend who is incredibly stingy. She doesn’t give Christmas presents; she calls to wish others “Happy birthday” but does not give gifts and always tries to pay as little as possible toward the tip when there are shared meals. I want to confront her but about being so cheap, but I am afraid that it will just blow up in my face because I am so annoyed.
Why are you friends with her? The next time you start a mental rant about her perceived shortcomings, remind yourself why you remain friends. Soak in your gratitude for her presence in your life. Then ask yourself why you use material things to grade the affection of others. Challenge yourself to value the aspects of the relationship that money cannot buy. That’s right, it’s people, not things, that really matter.