Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I worked for 10 years at a company that offered a good salary and benefits. When the recession hit, both myself and many of my friends were laid off due to budget cuts. It’s been several years and I still haven’t managed to find a full time job. I live from grant project to grant project.
One of my laid-off work friends, Debra, had put in 20 years of service before getting canned. She was searching for a couple years and FINALLY found a new job the other week. Another friend told me about it and I was very happy for Debra, until I was told that Debra instructed this other friend: “Whatever you do, don’t tell Cindy I got this job!” Debra had insinuated that because I hadn’t found full time work yet, it would just upset me to hear someone else’s good news.
Quite honestly, I find this very insulting! It implies so many negative character traits on my part- that I’m selfish and only want to hear good things if they apply to me; that I’m insecure and can’t handle hearing that someone else got a job when I couldn’t; that I’m just not a very good friend.
Now I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?
It sounds to me like your friend’s request was a misguided attempt to protect you. My suggestion is just say, “Hey I heard you finally landed a job. Congratulations!” and leave it at that. It’s what a generous, supportive friend would do; it’s good role modeling. It doesn’t matter whether your past behavior is in question or whether this is just your friend’s problem. Be consistent in your graciousness now and act like the friend you want to be, and voilà- you are that person.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I sense that there are some questions that your friend’s comment set off in your head, that’s why you are so uncomfortable with it. The fact that you have an insecure economic position can make you insecure on an emotional level too. In our society, we are taught to judge our worth by our productivity and our value by whether others value us. I think there’s a combination of factors here- your reaction to Debra’s words was colored by your admitted unhappiness over your work situation- on that level, it seems to confirm your worst fear- you’ll never find a good full-time job again. And on a personal level, it made you doubt your worth in your friend’s esteem. In short, it was all about you… and in a bad way. It’s time to re-direct your own history. As Dr. Brilliant pointed out, deliberately acting like the strong, confident and supportive person you want to be is a step in creating or reinforcing that person in a real way. Congratulate your friend, act like the bigger person; and that becomes part of your history and your mark as an individual. It’s really up to you.