Hubbie and I recently found ourselves engaging in two different…discussions.
The first involved a whole lot of bickering…making for some cranky moments at the coffee shop.
The topic at hand? A small, single flyer that he designed for one of my new upcoming workshops.
- “I think it should look like this,” he said, pointing to his computer screen and explaining his reasons.
- “I don’t like the placement of the graphics,” I said.
- “I put them that way to draw people’s attention to the headline,” he said.
- “I don’t care,” I said.
And on and on the discussion went, our whispers sharpening, our frustration increasing. Eventually, after a looooong debate, we found a solution that satisfied us both.
The second discussion involved a very civilized conversation.
The topic at hand? A big, expensive RV that we might purchase in the relatively near future if we take the new workshop on the road.
- “I think we should get this one,” he said, pointing to his computer screen and explaining his reasons.
- “Okay,” I said.
What the heck, Deirdre?…you may be thinking. How is it you can care so much about a silly little flyer, and then care so little about a huge financial commitment?
It’s a fair question. After all I trust Hubbie, and both of his explanations were well thought-out. So what was the difference?
The flyer was personal.
I put a lot of energy into the workshop, and I wanted the flyer to feel a certain way. I wanted it to represent me, my values, my personal brand. I was emotionally invested. And so I would stop at nothing to have it turn out the way I wanted.
Sure, the RV was an important decision. It would impact my quality of life on a day-to-day basis. But it wasn’t personal. While I was financially invested, I wasn’t emotionally invested. And so I was more open.
Every day we deal with things on a personal level:
- We work hard to meet our career goals because we know we’re achieving something…and that feels personal.
- We put our all into our creative projects because they reflect our points of view…and that feels personal.
- We strive to be an excellent parent, to excel at our golf game, to make a provocative point in our class, because we want to be as good as we can be…and that feels personal.
Having something feel personal can be both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, it means that we are truly invested, that we are all in, that we will stop at nothing to get the outcome we want.
On the other hand it means we can get pretty sensitive. It means we take success or failure, and the words of others related to it, with a greater emotional force. This sensitivity can cause us to lash out at others – and ourselves – when things don’t go our way.
It can make us downright cranky.
None of this is right or wrong. But it does lead to a few points to consider on the personal front…
Point #1: Personal or no?
When you engage in a new project or relationship, know from the start how emotionally invested you are. Think through how much it matters to you. Consider why.
Know the signs. If you find yourself lashing out when something doesn’t turn out your way, recognize that it might be more personal to you than you thought.
Point #2: Put up a warning flair
If you’re engaging in something that feels highly personal, give the other people involved a heads up. Let them know how much it matters to you, that you might be more sensitive than usual, that you might be more of a stickler on how it goes down.
Also, take note if it might be personal for others involved. (Hubbie takes his design projects to heart, which helped contribute to that looooong debate over the flyer.)
Point #3: Get some perspective
Recognize that, as personal as something feels, it might not be the huge deal you think it is.
Just because something feels personal doesn’t mean it reflects your value as a person. If that’s how it feels to you, then take some steps to realize that you are awesome, no matter what happens.
In the end…
Getting personal is a part of being human. And it can be a great part.
Just recognize when something really matters…and when you might be taking something personally for no reason.
It might just make your day a whole lot better.
Which will make you a whole lot happier.
Get personal. Recognize your emotional investments.
Let others know when they come up.
Hold strong on what really matters to you…and recognize that not everything matters as much as you think.
And be the awesome person that you are.
Now go do good…and do it well.