This weekend reminded me of two unwritten rules of communication:
1 – Never meet negativity with negativity.
2 – Always look for the joke.
#1 illustrates the only time it is all right to lie, if it means being positive rather than being negative. When the girl I mentor came to me to say she was afraid of being fired, and told me the story of why, I started well, by telling her I felt bad that she had to go through all that (learned that from my life coach). I failed, however, when I continued by telling her how serious her situation was, and how important it was for her to keep her job.
Was I wrong? No. Was that what she needed to hear, though? At that moment, when she already felt about about her job, herself, and everything else? Absolutely not. The advice I gave her after that was sound, and came from a good place, but was completely negated by the negative way I presented it. Whether she heard it or not I don’t know, but when she quickly ended the conversation, and then told me the next day that she was not eating or sleeping with worry, I knew how badly I had messed up. I didn’t help her, I made things worse, and I realized that I’ve been getting this wrong my whole life.
No matter what negative thing a person tells you, your best bet is to listen and acknowledge how they feel, but not add to it! By piling on about how negative a person’s situation is, you’re adding onto their emotional burden, and definitely not endearing them to you. It’s a lesson I should have learned long ago, but with everything else at this point in my life, better late than never.
#2 addresses the fact that I have never met anyone, especially a girl, who does not like humor. Look at every OKCupid profile, and you are not likely to find a girl who does not list sense of humor as one of the traits she likes in a potential mate. What I’ve struggled with, however, is that my life has been so dark and unpleasant, I am only funny (and ironically, there are many people who would describe me as funny) when I am comfortable with a person. The thing is, at that point I am funny because I naturally have wit. So what’s the solution?
Always look for the joke.
Today I went to the restaurant I go to on a near daily basis, that brings your order to your table, which they do by giving you a sign with your number to put on your table. For the past several days they have been using substitute numbers, so when I came in today and saw the regular ones, I joked, “ah! Your numbers are back from the cleaners, I see!”
It worked. My server immediately liked me, and I was off to the races.
Again, as I said, I am a naturally witty person, false modesty aside. If I look for the joke, I will find it, but unfortunately, because I perceive my life so negatively, I often begin in a negative mood until somebody or someone cheers me up into normalcy. From then on, the wit comes out, and that’s how I have the reputation with my friends for being funny. What I realize now is that I shouldn’t wait. Joking should be my default setting. Just as my sister and life coach advised that I should use the situation I’m in as a way to start a conversation with a girl, so too should I attempt to turn every situation into a joke if I can. That will bring out my humor, and make me “funny” up front – not after I get warmed up.
These seem like minor things, and for other people, maybe they come as second nature. Being the academic that I am, unless it can be written out and put in a book of rules or a textbook, I tend not to get stuff. I realize now that I have to write my own textbook, and these should be chapters one and two: Never Meet Negativity With Negativity, and Always Look For The Joke. Integrate these into my personality, and I think my loneliness will dissipate, and I will be generally more positive besides…