Those who give us a hard time, who are difficult to be around or who constantly blow our cover are the very ones who show us where we’re stuck. ~ Pema Chödrön
My take on this: the giving you a hard time person is actually a gift to you (even if it just seems as though they’re being obnoxious) – they’re showing you where you’re weakest and where you could most use a spruce up. Most people don’t bother rocking the boat. Most people will let you be weak.
We all SAY we’d prefer to know if we’ve got something stuck in our teeth or if our fly is undone. Depending on how good we’re feeling, we’ll laugh and be very grateful to the person who quietly points out the fatally public flaw. Important emphasis here: the helpful person quietly helps us. When someone is discreetly helpful, we’re grateful. But I get that what Pema Chödrön said also refers to those who are not discreet at all and seem like they’re as helpful as a hole in the head.
This is about the times when someone seems rather tactless in their “help” – calling out to you from the back of the bus that your fly is undone when you’re right down the front, and now everyone knows. And don’t even get me started on the type of assistance where someone’s fact-checking you – they don’t agree with an opinion or a fact that you’ve presented, and they quiz you in such a way that you feel like a liar. Or they don’t like the type of expression you used to say something that might well be true, but which doesn’t sit well with them.
And don’t you just love it when someone lets you know they’ve noticed a “pattern” in your behavior that you might want to “fix” (ie, you once had technical difficulties starting a presentation, and it happens a second time a year or so later with completely different equipment in a brand new conference room, and they now decide it’s a habit with you or that you’re not technically competent). And then, to be fair, there’s that moment when someone YOU just don’t like is saying something you don’t agree with, or don’t want to hear, and you interrupt them to tell them that they’ve got spinach in their teeth, demoralizing them mid-sentence.
We all know the difference between someone trying to be helpful, and someone trying to embarrass us. We know because we know when we are trying to be helpful and when we’re trying to cut someone down to size. I said above that it sometimes depends on whether we’re feeling good about ourselves as to how we interpret someone’s help. Because if we’re feeling a bit fragile, the assistance can make us feel hideously embarrassed, no matter how tactfully the assistance was provided. Other times our self-esteem is so unassailable that even if someone was TRYING to embarrass us, we just laugh it off and thank them, and continue saying whatever we were saying when we were interrupted and told about the spinach in our teeth. And if we’re really being mindful, we’ll notice the anti-pattern of engagement, see where we lost someone’s generous listening and instead got their garbage, and we’ll try to fix that.
Because what about the days when we get home and find our skirt tucked into our knickers and realise that the last time we went to the toilet was 6 hours ago and we’ve since attended 2 meetings and caught a bus and two trains and then walked 2.5kms?