4 Cures For Acute I Disease

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.

Theodore Roosevelt.

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.

If you are constantly obsessing about the injustices of your world you are void of the power to change it!  (Tweet this) (Facebook post)

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?

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Entertainment Expense

While vacationing recently in Costa Rica, Kathy and I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful B&B in the central valley near San Jose.  The innkeeper was a remarkable elderly widower who was strong in her faith and equally strong in her wisdom on life. Each morning Kathy and I would enjoy our conversations about life, love and living out our faith in a way that was honoring to the Lord. 

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One morning during our stay, our host commented about the incredible damaging power of the tongue.  She shared that she had been convicted lately about talking about others in a negative way and she shared about the damage that comes along with this kind of conversation.  I completely agreed with her.  Gossip and talking about others behind their back is a very easy thing to do.  I shared that I thought that talking about others can actually be a kind of entertainment- the act of talking about others and their problems can actually be fun for some and a source of enjoyment. 

My comments actually knocked her back a bit.  She commented on how my characterization of “entertainment” was especially painful to her as it seemed to hit the mark.  She pondered the description and we revisited this topic a few times during our stay as a result of my description of damaging talk and gossip- entertainment.

So what do you think?  Do you know some folks that seem to enjoy gossiping and talking negatively about others?  What can you do when you are confronted with someone who wants to rope you in?  Here are some ideas:

Respond With The Positive!  If they are focusing on merely the negative- then respond in a way that would honor the person.  Regardless of the discussion, there are always positive aspects to the story.  Bring up the good and stay out of the mud.  You will see that most gossips just won’t get any enjoyment out of the positive.  By focusing on the negative they are really lifting themselves up.  Be a person who builds up- not a person that tears down.

Confront Them!  If they are speaking out in a way that is damaging for no constructive purpose then call them out.  There are folks that really don’t realize they are being negative or damaging- they are so used to gossiping they really don’t see what they are doing.  Help them to see that speaking out has power and can be extremely damaging. 

Walk Away!  If you have friends engaged in damaging conversation and you feel uncomfortable about the discussion, then have the courage to leave.  Even by sitting in silence- you are participating.  If you are not comfortable with confronting the issues or if you are not familiar with the situation, the best choice may be to leave the conversation.  You will not regret walking away- you will regret being included if the cruelty spreads.

Think Before You Talk!  I am convinced that some peoples mouths just run faster than their heads.  Take a minute to really consider what you are about to say.  Thinking about something is far different than speaking it- and that expands even further when it’s to a group of people.  If you have to say “don’t repeat this but…” you probably need to think about it a little more before you say it.  You could be reading the situation wrong, you may have bad information, you may be misinformed.  Always default to keeping you mouth shut if you are not sure what to do.

Remember that you are a leader.  Others are watching you and learning from you- both good and bad.  Character and integrity are time sensitive.  They take a long time to gain yet they can be lost in an instant.  Don’t loose something that you will really regret later.  If you are uneasy about the conversation, then you know you should not participate.  Stay out of it.  Go find your entertainment elsewhere!     

So what do you think?  Do you find that you get “roped in” sometimes?  Do you have some tricks to avoiding gossip?  Click on “Comments” and share or hit “Like” if you agree!