I was relating a story to a co-worker the other day when I had one of those moments in life that you oddly remember for the rest of your life to come even though it was the most casual occurrence that could have happened in that moment. It happened like this.
I had been confused by a person’s behavior toward me, so I was asking my co-worker for advice on an appropriate response. I started to tell my story when the co-worker interrupted me to say this:
“And then did she start to tell you a story about how something similar happened to her because everything is always about her?”
This had not been the point I was searching for in this conversation, but it soon became the focus from which I could not steer away. What my co-worker had stated was a behavior I had often witnessed in people, but one that had never really concerned me. I had always thought people did things like that to show empathy or at the very least, sympathy. I had not realized that they may be doing it out of narcissism. So then I became stuck on it, because it was so unlike that which I had perceived previously.
So I thought about it some more and decided my co-worker was right.
This past winter I got to see my seven year old nephew learn to ski. On one run down the bunny slope, he fell. Hard. There were tears. I wasn’t there to witness the actual fall, but I skied up shortly after and my mom, whose main source of nutrition is drama, quickly relayed what happened. She said the little dude was hurting, and he wouldn’t try anymore with the zest he had had before the fall. Now, understanding that my mom can make drama queens pout in honest frustration, I skied over to the little dude and felt him out. Yes, he was hurt, and yes, he was a little rattled in the confidence region, but I thought he was still willing to give this thing a go.
So I told him a story about something similar that had happened to me.
I said, “Little dude, when I was learning to ski, I once fell so hard, I peed my pants.”
If you relay a story about anything to do with bodily functions around a seven year old, said seven year old is going to instantly forget about what it was that was upsetting him. But sadly, this was a true story, and I was not playing to his seven year old sense of humor. I really did fall and pee my pants. And it was in front of all my friends, too.
But the little dude started to laugh. And then he kept laughing. And then he went back up the hill. And the next time he fell, he look at me and said, “Aunt Jess, was that better than the time you peed your pants?”
And so I conclude this. For some people, it really is all about them. Some people need to make sure that you know you are just like them, so that they can feel better about themselves. But for others, its about a catalyst in the form of a moment of humiliation that will make you go back up that hill to fall again.
Just to see if you can do it better than that time Aunt Jess peed her pants.