I read somewhere this morning a post that had the word cliques, and that got me thinking about inclusion and exclusion. And that got me thinking about how often, and how strongly, I’ve felt excluded in my life.
Admittedly, I was a vulnerable person almost from the word go, and I may well have felt these situations to be worse than they are. But some of them, I know are true, and some of them I created for myself.
When I started work at TRW Electronics
in Colorado Springs, I wanted very much to be included in a lunch group to which my boss had introduced me. I was welcomed into the gang, five women from different parts of the plant, all of whom were gregarious and friendly. So I jumped right in.
Because I wanted everyone to like me, I did something that, looking back, made them all a little loony: every conversation would reach a point where someone had told a story, or read something, or whatever. I began talking.
I began to talk, (usually the truth, but often lies; and apparently, all of my remarks and stories started with, You know, I know someone who went through the same thing. And in my head, I was adding and it was even more _______ than what happened to you. I was excluding myself from the group, who must have been ready to stone me after a day or two. Yes, none of us should be surprised, if you’ve been reading this for a while; I was engaging in one-upping. No matter what story or circumstance was told, I always had one a little more scary, or more horrible, or more happy, or more sick, (this one a lot;) more anything than anyone.
I honestly didn’t realize this until my boss took me aside and asked me if I was listening to other people. She had seen that I was doing exactly what I described above. She challenged me to spend the next week listening, not planning what I would say — in fact, she suggested that I not talk at all for the first few days. I was mortified. This boss, whose name is Laura, was almost the first person ever to tell me to pay attention, and to stop one-upping people. Thank gods and goddesses everywhere.
(Laura was a friend before she was my boss. We had taken an intro-to-computers class together, and she thought I would do well in Word Processing. She was right.)
So I followed Laura’s advice, as well as I could, and I began to realize what interesting stories the other women had to tell. I saw what Laura had been talking about, and for the rest of my time at TRW, I curbed my one-upping. TRW ended up being a great job, and I remember it fondly.
When H. and I moved back to Maine, (at his wish, not mine,) I slipped in and out of this story-hogging habit of mine. I was successful, in part because I told this story first, so people would know that I might get carried away. Notice, how at that time, I never really thought of disciplining myself; I wanted others to do it for me. A long-held habit in itself. In fact, through seminary and my time preaching, I gradually got worse and worse at listening during conversations, until I was right back where I was before.
And then, in 1998, my health problems really got going, and I only needed one story, the medical one. That continued until just over a year ago. I finally found the way to love myself, and value what I had to say. It sounds backwards, but it isn’t. Once I found that happiness, I no longer needed to push into every conversation. I still do, at times, but now, I almost always catch myself. I’m certainly better than I used to be. But see — I’ve one-upped myself!
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