I read a post on Twitter from Jim Kouzes where new research indicates a 42% rise in the use of “I” and a 10% decline in “we” in American books. Jim pointed to a potential drop in teamwork as a consequence, but I think the rise in the “I” is really about something else.
We have become a nation of people who are obsessively self-centered.
We just can’t get over ourselves.
We have a real problem.
We have the “I” disease.
When you interact with a person with this affliction, all they really want to talk about is themselves. Their problems. Their successes. What they need. How they are being mistreated. The focus is always about them and their issues. This continuous inward focus is often all consuming. It can dominate your thoughts and your actions. I bet you know a friend who is infected. Or maybe you have these tendencies yourself.
To properly diagnose, I dare you to go ahead and count the amount of times that you hear the word “I” in a conversation? We have done this before and it can be startling. See how the person afflicted dominates the conversation by continually telling you about their problems, issues or triumphs. They are skilled at consistently turning the conversation back to them. They really show little interest in what is happening in your life.
Now I understand that there is a time and place for telling your story, tooting your horn and counseling a friend in a bad situation. We need to share what is going on in our lives and talking it out is a path to healing and regaining self-worth. Yet, there seems to be an epidemic right now of people that are stuck inside of themselves.
You must turn your focus outside. See what is going on outside of your own little world. Quit the pity party or selfish promotion and see the big picture. What are some practical ways to do this?
- Serve Others! As you begin to help others in need, you will see that your condition may not be as bad as you think. Serving others gives a fresh view of things and provides a way to use your gifts and talents to help others- maybe even someone who is suffering in a condition like you! By serving others, you are changing your focus to others. We all have something to give. Find a way to use your talents to serve others. The opportunities are endless!
- Be Thankful! Take an objective look at what you have. This is not a comparison exercise. We can all find someone who appears to have a better situation than we have. I think that most of us, when we are completely honest, would say that we are incredibly blessed and have much more than we deserve.
- Ask Questions! Instead of dwelling on your story as you interact, ask the other person some questions about what is happening in their lives. Have a genuine interest in being an active part of their lives. Begin to learn how to put yourself in their story and add balance to your conversations.
- Have Fun! Lighten up! If you are consistently sharing your struggles, you are likely a bit of a downer with your friends. Find some common activities and get out and have some fun. By focusing on fun activities, you will be removing the inward focus and giving your relationship some much needed nourishment.
I’m sure there are other strategies that work. Anything that adjusts your focus will do. We are certainly a spoiled and selfish lot. The cure for the I disease may difficult, but I guarantee that you will be rewarded and gratified as you begin to reestablish your priorities where they need to be!
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
Can you relate to this? Do you have some insights on how to help the afflicted? Press “comments” below and tell your story!
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