One of the things I’m discovering as I get older is that I have less patience for people. Whereas I used to be pretty tolerant of those who didn’t exactly meet my standards of human behavior, these days, I save myself from the agony of hanging around people I just don’t like.
I have an ongoing goal to be more accepting of people for who they are. It wasn’t always this way. In the past, I expected people to alter their behaviors and attitude to suit me. Needless to say, I was frequently disappointed.
I’m an upbeat, positive person. I love life. In the past, I expected everyone else to be the same way. I had a very close friend who I’ll call Ted to protect his identity. Ted opened every conversation with how society, the establishment, people he knew, and the world at large were trying to screw him. I could never understand this because he was a very intelligent guy, had an awesome job, and enjoyed a great life. Somehow though, he was always focused on the few negatives in his life instead of the abundance he enjoyed.
Ted would frequently open phone calls he made to me with, “Mace, why am I always getting screwed?” Then he would go on to describe some event that was on his mind that he wanted to talk about. Ninety-nine percent of the time, any situation Ted was lamenting resulted from his own actions. For example, Ted was a pretty wealthy guy. As a result, he never asked what things cost. He certainly would never attempt to negotiate the price of anything–it was beneath him. Inevitably though, he would find out that he paid too much and would accuse the seller or service provider of taking advantage of him.
Most of the time, I would point out the lameness of his complaint or get him to own it. One day Ted calls and says, “You’re not going to believe what happened to me. The marina where I keep my boats just called. They’re raising the doc rentals on the small boat by $200 a month and on the big boat by $500 a month. They promised to keep the rent reasonable for the area and they raised it. Now I”m going to have to sell the small boat because I just can’t afford to keep two boats any more. It costs me a pile of money every time I take out the big boat, but I don’t have a choice. I’ll just have to suck it up. Why am I always taking it in the **s?
Ted had no idea how ridiculous his diatribe sounded. I lightened the moment with some sarcasm with which I was trying to send a serious message.
“Ted, I’m so sorry to hear that. The world has been unkind to you. You poor soul. You’re down to your last yacht. Don’t despair my friend. I’m going to call the United Way and see if I can get a ‘Help Ted to keep his second boat grant.’ Maybe we can have a telethon. We’ll shoot a video of you forking over hundreds of dollars as you fuel your 46 foot toy. In fact, we’ll argue that you might have to fire the captain–that will certainly tug on some heart strings. Really?”
Ted would always laugh in recognition of how stupid he sounded, but then he would fall back into his funk. “Why wouldn’t the marina honor their promise?”
“What did they promise?”
“Well, they promised that the rent would probably stay the same.”
I asked, “When does your lease agreement terminate?”
“It ended last month.”
“Was there a renewal clause that specified the cost?”
“Yeah. It said the lease would renew at the prevailing rates.”
“So, it sounds like you don’t like the prevailing rates. Why didn’t you negotiate a multi-year agreement with an out-clause or sublet agreement?”
Silence. Then change of subject.
Again, we’re talking about a smart guy!
After years of dealing with Ted’s negativity, I had enough. I just couldn’t deal with him any more. I kept asking him to be less negative about his wonderful life and he wouldn’t….
Actually, he couldn’t. What I realized many years later is that Ted is wired a certain way and neither I nor anyone else was going to change the way he sees the world. I couldn’t change him and I no longer cared to tolerate his woe-is-me attitude. So I phased him out over a period of time. Essentially, I told myself, “I’m giving notice–I’m not dealing with Ted’s crap any more.”
We might hope and expect that some people will change, but it’s highly unlikely. People are who are they are. And often, they can’t help it. That’s why I’m constantly trying to accept people for who they are, but…it doesn’t mean I have to spend time with them. I’ve learned to make this decision sooner than later.
It no longer takes me years to decide when someone isn’t right for me. I’m sure that people feel the same way about me, and if so, I hope they decide quickly. Life is too short.
When I meet someone new, I know in one or two meetings if that person is someone I want to spend time with. I cut people a lot of slack. I understand that when people meet for the first time, they want to tell you about themselves. Some people though, want to talk only about themselves. I have no patience for that, but I’ll give them another shot. When the second encounter is the same as the first, I’m done. Again, life’s too short.
We need to accept people for who they are, that is, don’t expect them to change. As the late Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” But it doesn’t mean you have to torture yourself being around them. Most of the time, we have the option to “give notice” to ourselves and to them (hopefully in a kind way).
The most important thing in the world to me are the people I know and like. The rest I wish well and hope that any future encounters will be pleasant and short.