Elaine called me and said, "I need some work done around my house, and for years I've used the services of this guy, Clay, who does pretty good work and doesn't overcharge me. But he really gets on my nerves—bad. And I must not be the only one who finds him annoying, because he has no friends at all."
"He never stops talking," she continued, "and his favorite topic is himself. I go back and forth between feeling sorry for him and wanting to tell him to shut up. So I need him, but I can hardly stand to be around him. I feel critical toward him, run from him, and pretty much don't know what to do. I tried to tell him about Real Love once, but that didn't work."
"Don't make this too complicated," I said. "You like some things about Clay, but there are other things you don't like. Understandably, this is how nearly all of us feel about most people. But people are not menus. We can't pick the parts we like and discard the rest. You can't change Clay. The only thing you can change is how you respond to him."
"You have lots of choices. First, you have to decide if you're willing to pay the price of working with Clay. Everything has a price, and we tend to forget that. We love to make our own choices, but we don't like the accompanying cost. For you the cost of Clay's help is not only the money you pay but also dealing with who Clay is. If you decide the cost is too high, don't ask for his help. Remember, though, that no matter who comes to help you, there will always be a price."
"So maybe I should get somebody else."
"Maybe, but as you say, he does good work and isn't too expensive. You just don't like the 'hidden' costs, so let's see if we can reduce those. You don't like it that he talks endlessly about himself. Understandable, so how could you minimize that? You can't make him stop talking—you've already proven that—but you could choose not to be there while he's working. You could leave your house when he's working.
"Or you could tell him that you'll be in the next room, reading or whatever, unavailable unless he has questions about his work. You could also keep reminding yourself that this man feels unloved and alone, which could change the way you feel about his attention-getting behaviors. There are many things you could do to make the cost of this whole experience more acceptable."
When you buy something at the store, it always has a price. When you get to the checkout, you can't then say that you're not willing to pay that price. You agreed to the price the moment you chose the product. You also agreed to drive to the store, deal with the traffic, park, walk the aisles, deal with the crowds, and so on. It's all part of the price, and if you're not willing to pay it, don't go to the store. Don't choose that product.
Similarly, people are who they are, and there's always a price for interacting with them. You can change your perspective toward them—see them as drowning, for example, and be more compassionate—but you still have to choose whether you will pay the entire price. If you're not willing, choose not to interact with that person or persons.
Replace your anger & confusion with peace and happiness.
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