Someone said this to me a few months ago and I honestly think it’s the best advice I ever got. Honestly, this is probably the best advice I’ll ever give you too.
It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s drama. It’s almost like an interactive reality TV show. That’s right, you’re not just watching the drama unfold in front of you, you can become an active participant and actually feel the drama! What better way to waste your time and emotional energy than to get caught up in someone elses problems?
What do the following examples all have in common?
- A good friend of mine keeps asking me how she can get a six-pack. I keep telling her exactly what she needs to do. She comes back every month, frustrated that she hasn’t made any progress. I asked if she tried what I suggested. Nope.
- My mom keeps asking me how to market her art online. I keep giving her suggestions. She comes back every few months, frustrated that she hasn’t made any progress online. I ask her if she’s tried any of my suggestions. Nope. (As an aside, check out her art – it’s amazing! And feel free to share your suggestions.)
- A friend of mine is in a destructive relationship. He’s gotten her pregnant, they get in crazy fights, and you just never know when they’re going to explode. He keeps coming to me with his problems and I keep getting involved.
- Some days I get nothing done. I wake up, check my email and proceed to do that all day long. It’s amazing how many emails I get every day. Staying on top of them is a full time job. I could do it forever, and get absolutely nothing done.
All of the above examples are about dealing with other people’s shit. Sometimes dealing with other people’s shit can seem really insignificant, like giving the same advice to someone that just doesn’t listen or dealing with someone who consistently over-promises and under delivers. Sometimes it’s an all out emotional roller coaster, like dealing with a friend who’s in a chronically abusive relationship. Often the more intensely negative a person’s problem is, the more insidious its pull on you is.
Other people’s shit is all around. And often it’ll stop you from doing what you really want to do. There’s always a party, a BBQ, a birthday, an event, a task, a favor, a friend, or a situation that’ll keep you from being focused on accomplishing what you want to do. Even worse, other people’s drama will drain your energy and leave you feeling exhausted. You could spend your whole life catering to someone elses schedule. If you don’t proactively protect your time and energy, it will find ways to get consumed.
It happens to me all the time and I’m guessing it happens to you pretty often too. I’ve recently developed a few simple techniques that help me better manage my energy. I thought I’d share them with you:
- Be aware – know when you’re dealing with other people’s shit and make a conscious decision about whether or not you’re going to deal with it.
- Don’t be afraid to withdraw – Excuse yourself politely and then avoid getting involved again until the situation has died down. One of my best friends, Julie, has mastered the art of FOPS. Every time we get into a heated argument about something, she says “ok, that’s fine” and excuses herself from the conversation. Yes, it’s frustrating, but it works really well.
- Conserve your energy – If you feel yourself getting frustrated, that’s a red flag. Step back and ask yourself why you’re getting frustrated. More often than not, it’s because you’re dealing with someone else’s shit. Then go back to step 2.
- Protect your time – Ask yourself what you want to accomplish each day. Then ask yourself if constantly checking your email, answering phone calls, and dealing with other people’s issues will help you get your goals accomplished.
- Don’t feel guilty – Above all, never feel guilty for not dealing with someone else’s shit. You’ve got plenty of your own to deal with. Do other people a favor and don’t get them involved in your drama either. Remember, fuck other people’s shit!
[ photo: flickr / dougbeckers ]