- A life-long friend is always late. There’s always a reason. It feels disrespectful. You take it personally. When you widen the lens, however, you can see that she is overextended. Everyone who needs a favor can count on her. She’s happy to help. Many of those favors have come your way over the years. Kindness and generosity are the motivations for her tardiness.
- A long-term colleague is self-absorbed. He rarely asks about your challenges and filters all input as though he is the center of the universe. While he probably doesn’t recognize it, he comes off as needy. A workplace happy hour conversation unveils a trauma history. His hunger for care and compassion is bottomless. His desperation for attention alienates the very people from whom he most craves acknowledgement. We all carry burdens, but they’re not always visible.
- A teammate on a creative project has a negative attitude. Whenever someone serves up a new idea, he shoots it down. He kills the buzz of every brainstorm session. Your team is made up of a blend of left-brain (logical/analytical) and right-brain (intuitive/creative) talent. Your downer teammate is doing what he is wired to do. Not all novel ideas can be engineered to work. While he might benefit from an attitude adjustment from a team culture perspective, the group relies heavily on his specialization.
The examples are endless, but they all have something important in common. In the precious and fleeting time we have on this planet, these are people we select to be in our community. For better or for worse. Of course, there is always an option to press the eject button on a relationship. Yet, connections tend to endure for reasons both conscious and unconscious. You have chosen them, and they have chosen you. The price you both pay for idiosyncrasies comes with the deal. It’s the community you choose.