I’ve recently had a slew of people in my life, coming to me with their life’s issues, wanting to tell me their entire sordid lot of problems. I listen, worry, fret and work on how to help them out, only to figure out that there’s been no updates as to the status of those issues since and go on to feel like I’m chasing them down to hear the outcomes or updates. That’s when I am made to feel as though I am meddling for having followed up with it all.
Well, excuse me for caring! Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?
Maybe, I am the insane one but, to me, if you’re going to call me with all of your problems and get me caring about you, be prepared to have the common courtesy of at least letting me know that you’ve solved it, moved on or plain and simply have gotten past it. If I give you the care and time of day to listen to it all, you’d better have the decency to return the concern by saying, “oh, hey…just filling you in….” and give me something to put closure to the situation within myself too. Otherwise, it’s much like getting caught up in an intense movie, getting to the climax of the plot line and never seeing or knowing the ending. The adrenalin is there. The muscles are tensed up. The want is there but, there’s nothing to relieve those wonderings.
Worst of all, it’s like they’ve disappeared off the planet, never to be gotten ahold of again or until the next drama happens and they find your address or phone number again.
I know all of us just need to vent sometimes and once we’ve done that much, we oftentimes, find a way of dealing with the situation or it resolves itself. However, when you’ve filled someone who cares, earful of your troubles and woes, recognize that you should at least give that person a shout-out to let them know how it all turned out one way or another. You obviously knew that they cared or you wouldn’t have called or gotten in touch with them to begin with. A wall or an old pillow to punch would have suited the same purposes if you didn’t really intend on anyone worrying about your issues and you. Admit it. You wanted someone to care and be sympathetic, if not, empathetic. Misery tends to love company, right?
Worse than that is when I’ve had to chase down those very same people, hours, days and even into weeks later, not only not getting ahold of them or, having them return messages and being concerned enough that my own life has been interrupted in one way or another but, to have that person finally get back to me and give the impression that I’ve somehow “meddled” by asking them how they’re now doing. It’s like I’ve slapped them in the face and taken up their time. Of course, apparently, the time they took up in my life and the emotional space that they took up in my life, has no meaning whatsoever it seems.
The last straw on the proverbial camel’s back hit me more recently when a couple of close friends had taken up inordinate amounts of my time, energy, worry, concern and empathy in hearing all of their problems then, had disappeared from my radar for a period of time, leaving me wondering if they were ok, or whether they’d simply solved their issues. I had to chase them down to find out, only to get a snappy, “yeah, everything’s fine but, I’m busy right now,” response. It was as though I had laid my problems in their laps, taken up their time, energy, sympathy, empathy and whatever else and they were cutting me off. Guess what? They have now worn their welcome out with me on listening to any future issues they may have. I learned that I cannot take them seriously anymore nor, can I take their worries to heart. I am not a punching bag and I’m certainly not a wall.
If you have issues with people similarly to this, here are a few tips on how to deal with these types of situations.
- Recognize who is worthy of your time and energy. If they haven’t given you their time and energy in equal proportion, don’t give yours to them either. Be polite and listen to the Reader’s Digest version of their issues but, cut it off there and as quickly as they would with you.
- Ask yourself if this person is prone to “drama/attention seeking”. There’s plenty of people out there who thrive on “drama” and just love the attention that it gets them. If the person laying their issues into your lap is one of those people, run, don’t walk and don’t second guess yourself. There will be a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation or two that you might miss but, trust me, they have plenty of other people they have on strings for this purpose and use on a regular basis. If you miss a real issue, that’s their problem. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
- Is this person a regular part of your life in good times as well as bad or, are they only around you when they want to bend your ear with their problems or get help somehow? If someone rarely calls you or gets in contact with you during their good things in life and only contacts you when things are looking like they’re up to their armpits in despair, it’s a good sign that they are relying upon you to listen to their issues only. If they’re not there to share their good times with you, why should you be there to handle the bad times? Let those they are around in their good times, be the ones who are there for them during their “bad times” too. These people have had the benefits, let them have the detriments too.
- If you’re only hearing the problems and not the outcomes of them, there’s a good chance that you were simply a convenience at that moment and they weren’t truly that upset over things they yapped about at that moment. People love to just vent their problems at a moment when they’re most upset and more often than not, will do their complaining into your ear, feel better for having done it then, move onto other things once you’re gone, they’re gone or they’ve finished their monologue and gotten your sympathies, agrees or your empathy. They feel better while leaving you feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mac truck. Either learn to do other things, letting it all go in one ear and out the other, not letting anything they say, stick or cut them off as soon as possible. If you have Caller ID on your phone and know that they have a tendency to do this with you already, don’t answer the phone or look at their Facebook messages or emails. The mere fact (if they’re within person to person contact distance) that they’re not making an effort to get together with you, means that they really just want that ear to blow off steam into and, can’t be bothered to get together with you because it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things to them. Take that cue.
- When you find yourself and that little inner voice saying, “why am I listening to this”, you have a sure fired sign that deep, down inside of you, you know this person’s M.O. from past encounters. Listen to the little voice within you, not them, give a cutoff and get away or try to change the subject if you want to talk to them further. Don’t let them drone on and on again.
- If you have to chase them down to find out what happened or what the outcome was, there likely wasn’t anything to be concerned about in the first place. If this person hasn’t gotten back to you with what’s going on after you’ve listened and tried to help and you don’t know the outcome, don’t chase them down to find out. Realize that if they got in touch with you to tell their stories of woe to you, they would also get back in touch with you to let you know there were still issues. Assume that they’ve worked it out somehow or it’s been solved and everything is ok then, learn not to be concerned about them or their troubles any further. People like that will always seek you out again if they’re still in trouble. At the very least, they will seek out others. Let them. Just take it off of your plate. They likely have.
- If you have chased them down to find out and they’re not answering you or they have totally minimized what that was all about at that point or, worst of all, they act like you are taking up their time by following up with them, don’t bother listening to them again after that. These types of people are “users”. They will vent to whomever will give them an ear and they have abused your kindness to them. Don’t extend them any further generosities after that. If they truly wanted someone to care and cared about the benevolence that you have shown them, they would be thinking, “I’d better update (insert your name here) because she/he was concerned about me”. If they aren’t concerned enough to inform you about what happened with that situation, they really aren’t all that appreciative of you. And please, don’t take the old, “I was going to call you and let you know what happened but, I got busy or, I forgot” lines. That’s crap, bull and translated means, “I am fine, have moved on and didn’t give a flying sh*t what you were thinking or feeling after that.”
Most of all, value yourself and your own time so that people like this won’t take further advantage of you. You’re not being paid to be their therapists or caregivers and from my little corner of life, or worry about them. You don’t owe it to them to find out how something turned out after you’ve given them your time and energy in hearing and listening to it all, trying to help. That’s their responsibility and courtesy/thanks to you for doing so. Pay attention to what has happened from here on out and make note of it then, learn from it and let it go. They have. Trust me on that one.
Have a great day. From my corner of life to yours.