Howdy folks! It’s Betty again – and this time I want to discuss something that we don’t get into in the workshop any more because it’s almost its OWN workshop due to the complexity. That topic is how our relationships affect our positivity.
We can have the best intentions in the world. However, our free will kind of bumps up against everyone else’s free will and sometimes that makes things tough. We know how things should be, and of course, we’re always right. The challenge is that everyone else knows how things should be for themselves, and of course, they are always right too!
It is important to choose your companions carefully when you are in job search mode. Family members and loved ones who have had different experiences of job search will often be frustrated with you for being ‘too picky’ or ‘spending so much time on the computer’. This is not helpful feedback.
Here’s a thought: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If that idea caused you to say “ouch”, as it did with me the first time, it might be worth investigating your relationships. It’s also important to note that people will pull you up or down, because you want to be loved and accepted.
Here’s an example or two from my own life; when I entered post secondary (especially the couple of years I spent at university before I changed gears), there was some blowback from my family. They wanted me to have an education, but I think they were afraid I’d outgrow them. As my circle of friends shifted, so did my priorities and my desire to have an impact on the world.
When I started working out regularly, certain people in my friendship group felt like I was “always at the gym” and “never did anything fun any more” and “was so picky about food”. This was in direct contrast to the environment at the gym, where I had people who were inspiring me and encouraging me to do more and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
In many ways the single most healthy thing (physically and emotionally) you can do for yourself while you are job searching is to carefully choose who you spend your time with and how much of your energy you give them.
This isn’t always easy. Sometimes people we love very much are part of the problem, and we may not want to (or be able to) just stop talking to them for a few months! So let me share some tips and tricks that have come up in the workshop for situations where you have to spend time with someone you know is not going to be supportive:
- Meet in a public space: People that are antagonistic will often ‘behave better’ if they know they are being observed or may be judged for their behavior
- Set time limits: Explain that you are only available for an hour or whatever it is and then stick to that. Enlist a friend to call you and interrupt if you must
- Redirect them: No matter what I am talking to certain family members about, it always ends up being about my excess weight. I’ve gotten very good at changing the subject
- Embrace the power of ‘Thanks’: Sometimes the best thing you can do is acknowledge them for the input and say you’ll think about it – we all just want to be heard. You don’t have to AGREE with them, just let them know the message was received and move on
- Reframe their comments: Even the most obnoxious nag thinks they’re being helpful. Take their comments within that mental framework. They Mean Well, even if they’re annoying you
- Don’t take it personally: Much of the time their frustration either isn’t about you, or is only vaguely about you. (They’re on your case because they’re afraid they might lose THEIR job due to COVID-19 and so watching you struggle makes them feel threatened, for example)
- Change your physiology: Stand up. Sit down. Try leaning back from the ‘passionate discussion’ and placing your hands face up on your thighs to create open posture. It actually can help
- Set boundaries for behavior: This only works if you have the stamina to enforce them, but sometimes it can be helpful to just be plain with someone that their behavior is NOT okay and needs to stop. Now. Sometimes we’re just too darned Canadian. No is a complete sentence
- Do NOT make idle threats. “If you bring it up again I’m never speaking to you again” or “If you don’t stop doing that I’m leaving you” are ultimatums, not boundaries. They are manipulative and dishonest statements that the other person can – and will – ignore.
- Ask why: If someone’s behavior is offensive, it can be severely derailing to them to ask why they are doing this. It’s especially effective with racism, sexism, and homophobia, because naming it and asking “why is that funny” usually stops it because they have to admit it’s not
- Have something to do: Bring a board game or some cards so there is an activity you can focus on. Invite the other person to bring a craft or project they’re working on to talk about. Providing a positive, creative focus can help keep conversations from getting frustrating
It is important to remember, particularly when you’re getting frustrated, that people giving you advice have the best of intentions. No, good intentions don’t cancel out poor behavior, but bearing that in mind can help you keep your calm.
To quote a friend of mine, no is also an answer. To repeat what I said earlier, no is also a complete sentence. If you know that going to Uncle Jack’s barbeque is going to be a minefield, then you are allowed to say “no, I can’t make it, but thank you for the invitation.”
You are not obligated to explain why. You are not required to apologize, or make up reasons. And if they won’t accept no for an answer, see the very beginning about reassessing how much of your energy you give them right now.
This applies online too. I have a few people I love dearly that I’ve had to mute on Facebook at various points because their behavior is so distracting and destructive that I just need to not hear their rants about various topics for a month, especially conspiracy theories about the job market or the government or any of a number of vague and unhelpful things. No thanks. Have a nice life.
Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful. Be well, stay safe, and remember to look after yourself.