Dear Carolyn: A group of people who once worked long days, weeks, months and even years on a political campaign gets together once or twice a year for lunch. The former candidate usually starts the invitation process by email and, once responses are in, we agree on a date and time and meet at a restaurant.
This year it wasn’t pleasant. The former candidate began the gathering by inviting everyone to say a few words about what’s new in their lives during the previous year. It could be a trip someone took, a change of jobs, retirement, an engagement, etc. Two women, both seniors who live alone, kept interrupting the personal remarks with their own comments, asking questions and generally hijacking individual personal comments. I thought it rude and inappropriate.
How should this be handled in the future? At the beginning, should I have made a “suggestion” that we allow up to two minutes for personal comments and hold our questions until the end? Sadly, the former candidate doesn’t even realize this behavior was not appreciated by several of us. I think the two women who hijacked the comments aren’t used to being in daily contact with others and have lost their sense of consideration when they are in groups.
Then compassion would be in order, wouldn’t it, as opposed to pursed lips and a stopwatch?
Maybe you never much liked these women back in your campaign days, but if you did, even a little, then I could make a case for the exact opposite of cutting them off.
Embracing them, and even staying in touch between lunches, might take the edge off their isolation and with it their need to dominate conversations. Recruiting a few other former compatriots to join you would make the mini-reunions both more fun and more effective. If you’re still politically active, you could also invite them to pitch in on your latest effort: “We could use your help Sunday – I'll even pick you up.”
Even if it doesn’t put the tiniest dent in their neediness, and even if they still hijack the next group lunch and the next, it would still stand on its own as a warm and decent thing to do.
Dear Carolyn: I have a number of fairly close friends who generally respond positively, even eagerly, to invitations to socialize, yet they rarely initiate. It makes me think I’m more interested in our friendship than they are. (For the record, I have other friends who do initiate.) I’d appreciate your thoughts.
That they don’t initiate is an observation. That you are more interested in your friendship than they are is an inference.
An inference allows for drawing a different conclusion from the same facts: for example, that these friends are homebodies and don’t call out of inertia. To each one’s own nature, no?
Instead of inferring an insult — why manufacture new ones when life serves up plenty? — try operating strictly on facts. They accept your invitations eagerly. OK. So you get to decide whether you enjoy their company enough to keep inviting them.
In fact, you don’t even need to come up with a from-this-moment-forward solution. You can go strictly case-by-case: Is this the person I’d like to see next weekend? Yes/No. Simplify, simplify.
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