Valuable quotes

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." ~~

"The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you've already lost." ~~

Cree Prophecy - "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money." ~~

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One-upmanship or “I’m better than you are”

I choose a picture of The White Goddess Tara here because she is the goddess of compassion for others. At her right hand is the conventional truth, positioned in the perfection of charity and her left hand symbolizes the absolute truth and protection from terror. Her right foot is stretched out and is the abandonment of all defects, and her left foot is drawn back to symbolize the understanding of qualities.

I relate to her in many respects because I was affected on my left side and her postures suggest my own. A protecting of the left and strength on the right.
To Tibetans she is known as The Faithful One, The Fierce Protectoress.
The Celts called their "Great Goddess" Tara. Two of her animals are the Owl and the Raven, her gem is the emerald (my birthstone) and she likes all colors, but especially white and green.

In Native American legends, she is known as the "Star Woman". The Cheyenne people tell of Star woman who fell from the heavens to the earth and out of her body all essential food grew. And the Druids called her their mother goddess.

Her name is thought to be the root of the word Tor, which is a mound of earth or hillock imbued with spiritual energy or connection to the spirit world. Tara embodies the feminine strengths of great caring and compassion, the ability to endure stressful and even terrifying moments. An ancient saga of Finland said to be 5 million years old speaks of Tar, the women of wisdom. An ancient tribe of indigenous peoples in the South American jungles call to their goddess, Tarahumara.
Legends and myths of every culture praise She Who Brings Forth Life, She Who Is The Embodiment Of Wisdom, The Great Compassionate Mother, The Star Of Heaven. She has been called by many names, she has been revealed in many forms.

Yes, that was a long road taken to get to what I wanted to say about one-upmanship and our lack of communication skills today. You notice I don't have any loss of words at all, much to many people's chagrin.
But I found myself in a situation yesterday that got me thinking about the way we interact verbally with one another. I had helped to rescue a kitten for a neighbor and after the kitten was safely nestled in her arms, she thanked me profusely for the rescue and also for not relating a tale beginning with “That’s almost as bad as…” When I asked her what she meant, she asked me had I never noticed how people always say they’ve had worse things happen to them than you have? This was the first time I’d met someone else who was bothered by this term.

I have occasionally noticed this pattern in speech before and while it’s sometimes humorous, more often than not it will be annoying. Only after she reminded me though, did I stop to analyze why we do it.

I can understand when you are telling a person you had an unexpected expense that was tough to deal with and they reply that they can relate, then go on to tell you of their most recent unexpected outlay. That, I think is their way of saying they have been through what you’re going through. Another phrase is of course “Bin there!”

But what I’m really talking about is the one-upmanship or ‘I’m better than you are’ meaning behind that phrase, almost as bad.
“Oh yeah, that’s almost as bad as….”

Now, there may be times when indeed, my experience might not have been as bad as one they’ve been through, but even in that case, isn’t it still wrong to begin dialog with someone in that way?

Case in point; some time back I had two friends who were going through some awful stuff. My one friend had just lost her 19 year old son to suicide. He shot himself full of heroin and offed himself right in front of his kid brother. I don’t think I have to tell anyone how devastating that would be for both brother and mother.
At the very same time, within that same week in fact, my neighbors’ 20 year old son was sent to Iraq; into Baghdad with the bombing and fighting going on there. She too, was beside herself with worry for her son. She wasn’t dealing well with her only son now being the target of gunfire and bombs. I had been spending most of my time shuttling back and forth between these friends, trying to be supportive and help in any way I could. Time on the computer was minimal to none.

So when my daughter emailed me asking me how come I hadn’t been emailing her as much, I told her what I’d been doing that past week and went on to tell her about my two friends and their misfortunes. I said that the mother who had lost her son was just now beginning to deal with the loss, but the other mother was still fighting to push away the thoughts that she may have to face a loss of a child. That was being made harder by recurring nightly dreams, terrible dreams with sounds of bombs going off.

To that, my daughter came back with “Oh that’s almost as bad as what I’m going through myself this morning. I can certainly relate to the sound of bombs bursting all around you because I’ve been sitting here listening to my upstairs neighbor mow the lawn. And I have to listen to this every Saturday morning”
Hello? Say what?? Are we on the same wavelength here at all?

Alright, so noise isn’t pleasant. I’m the first one to be irked by drive-by shakers & a neighbors barking dog from dawn to dusk. I‘m not crazy about listening to lawn mowers either. But to compare, or say your misery is worse than that of a mother with a son at war & what that son is going through, is pretty egotistical & self absorbed. Did she stop to think about the situation at all before she responded? Do others? Or is this where the ‘One-upmanship’ comes into play? No matter what others are going through, it’s never going to be as bad as the stuff that’s going on in their lives.

I think if we‘re honest with ourselves, we realize that all we think and say, (and do), to one degree or another, is tainted with selfishness. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If we don't think about ourselves in some situations, no-one else will. This is a part of that, but taken to the extreme. If you look up the word one-upmanship, the dictionary’s pretty blunt. It is “the practice of, or skill in, seizing an advantage or gaining superiority over others.” Perhaps that is why that phrase begins so many sentences?
If it weren’t so overused these days, I want to say to people like my daughter “It’s not always about you.” And add to all those others that use the term, 'Sorry Buckaroo, but sometimes it's not about you at all!!' Sometimes others simply do have a much harder lot in life than you.

Try showing some empathy. Empathy is putting yourself into another's shoes, or at least trying to. Not immediately pointing out that your shoes are better, or tighter, or more worn. And you're really much poorer and can't afford any more.

On the other hand, maybe I just have way too much time to think.


Nancy said...

Feb 01, 2007 at 9:08 am

I'm guilty of this. I think we all are to some extent. But when I think about it, I don't say it to one-up someone as to let them know they aren't alone in their misfortune, whatever it is: it's happened before, to someone else. But you're right, it doesn't come across that way, does it? Good call to wake up & become more conscious about it. Thanks.

duane said...

Right on the money, Ginger.

Feb 01, 2007 at 11:41 am

Elsa said...

Feb 01, 2007 at 7:08 pm

I like it that you are a hero woman who saves your neighbor's cat! :-)

Ginger said...

Elsa; if I didn't, my own three would never meow to me again! Can't have that! =)

Kaonashi said...

Feb 02, 2007 at 5:05 am

As part of a work-related seminar, I once attended a workshop that dealt with learning to listen properly. One of the exercises we did was partner up and listen to our partner speak for about 2 minutes. During that time we aren't to interrupt them at all.

The workshop moderator explained to us that often times we're not really listening to the other person. We're just waiting for the chance to offer our two cents or, as you mention in this article, compete with the other person with a better story. We don't realize that we would learn so much more from our conversation partners if we just take a moment to actually listen to and absorb what they're saying, rather than just waiting for your moment to talk.

Ginger said...

Kaonashi; I agree with your seminar moderator. You can actually see people fidgeting and sighing sometimes, just waiting to launch into their own narrative.
My uncle passed on advice to me as a kid; you'll never learn anything as long as you pretend you know everything. He told me it took him until he was into his 40's to learn that and it was probably the most valuable thing he *did* learn.
Shut up and listen...really listen.

Nancy said...

Feb 02, 2007 at 3:31 pm

That's very good advice; I hope I can learn it. It also makes one a LOT more popular, I imagine.

Traveler said...

Jul 28, 2008 at 1:18 am

Very, very true. At the same time, I'm thinking about your daughter, and others who may respond like her. I think a lot of the time people who act like her just do it because they don't know any better, they DON'T stop to think, that's the point. We are very conditioned to automatically respond with our own stories. Or, we are embarrassed, don't know how to empathize, and that's our best attempt at being helpful. I know I have been guilty of one-upmanship, and felt pretty silly, but just did not know what else to say. It does take practice and mindfulness.

Douglas Mays said...

Jul 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

yes. no matter how bad anyone's 'bad' story is, you still have to deal with it.

not facing the issue is an excuse for someone's 'bad' story. some people have such bad stories they don't see what the problem actually is.

nohj said...

Dec 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Communication that starts out with “Once again, let me remind you that…” puts people on the defensive, distracting from the productive message. Those 7 words waste time for both the writer and receiver, whereas going straight to the action recommended removes all waste. Why spend even 2 minutes trying to prove that the idiot who said that had never before answered the Q, so why would the say "let me remind you" ?? My immediate response is "#%@$^ U#*@ too, Sir!"

sherbear said...

May 28, 2012 at 11:48 am

it's having consideration or behaving my opinion being taught the difference is on the wane and the chest-pumping ME-ME! atitude is on the rise, sadly.

Ginger said...

@sherbear -- I'm so pitifully behind in tending to my blog & ask everyone's forgiveness in responding to their comments. Dealing with cancer in the family takes a lot of my time.
I completely agree with your assessment tho'...we are so self involved anymore & the world we live in is one we create to revolve around us. No-one suffers more, feels as much pain or sadly cares whether anyone else does. We need to get over that quickly!

For the consideration of family & friends...