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Your job and my job

Hi everyone, and welcome to new subscribers!

Once again I forgot to schedule time to write this newsletter; some part of my brain apparently thinks I can dash it off in between loads of laundry. I'm writing this at the dinner table in the evening while my youngest watches YouTube, so if today's newsletter seems a little stream-of-consciousness, I apologize!

These monkeys have a good understanding of boundaries and their emotional responsibilities.

That sounds like a 'you' problem


A university friend of mine, Ian Goldberg, used this little heuristic to determine whether something was his problem:

Not my responsibility?
Not my fault?
Not my problem.

It was exactly what undergrad me needed, because undergrad me made very few distinctions between my own responsibilities and those of others: I just worried about everything.

It's pretty easy to split up physical or logistical responsibilities: I cook; you do the dishes. I do front-end; you do database. I copyedit, you proofread. Those jobs are easy to define and it's easy to tell when someone is slacking off.

Emotional tasks are not so easily divided, but the heuristic for doing so is as clear as Goldberg's maxim: Your responsibility is what you can control. You can't control other people's feelings. Therefore other people's feelings are not your responsibility.

It was another couple of decades before I really understood how to separate emotional responsibilities, but it seems that the next generation is, as usual, more advanced. "That sounds like a 'you' problem" is one of my 16-year-old's catchphrases, and while she often deploys it with typical teenage sass and illogic ("Me not finishing my homework sounds like a Mr James problem"), the principle of knowing that some problems are "you" problems is valid.

The idea of emotional detachment sounds pretty straightforward, but it means you have to leave a lot on the table: whether people like you; whether your kid is happy when they take out the trash; whether people agree with you; what the neighbours think; whether the person you love loves you back.

It doesn't help that other people will try to make their work into your work. This comes up a lot online. A popular tactic of trolls is to ask people to teach, explain, and justify things which are really the troll's responsibility to educate themselves on (if they're genuinely curious, which they usually aren't). But the troll says it's the other person's responsibility to convince, to pursuade. Not because the troll is planning to consider the evidence and possibly change their mind, of course: it's just a diversionary tactic, a way to keep you busy servicing them instead of doing your real work.

Little kids are great at this too (not that I'm equating little kids and trolls... 😬) — they have a bloodhound's nose for cracks in your resolve when it comes to responsibility. If you let down your guard, before you know it you're carrying their backpack, intervening with their teacher about marks, and explaining to their taekwondo master why they didn't practice.

The idea of separating yourself from responsibility for other people's feelings and opinions (which, incidentally, comes from Alfred Adler — I did not invent it) leads logically to one of my favourite ideas: that your only job is to be yourself. If you're not in the business of pleasing, impressing, or intimidating people, then the only guide to your behaviour is within you. (I know, horrifying, right?!)
 

Try this at home

Is there some area in which you are taking on someone else's task? Are you shouldering the burden of a friend agreeing with you, a co-worker showing up to meetings on time, or the happiness of a parent? How can you disengage from that task and return it to the other person?

What's New

I did the math yesterday and I have completed 9.5 out of the 40 hours of coaching I need to do before the end of practicum. With 30.5 hours to go, I could use a couple more clients, so throw me your ideas about finding folks. (My dream market is tech startups, so I'm going to a bunch of networking events in the next few weeks.)

My pay-what-you-can offer will expire at the end of September, but of course since I'm the boss of me I can make up some other cool offer after that. Should I do that? On the one hand, I want to earn money and charge what I'm worth, but on the other hand, isn't it more important to get lots of practice? I don't know — your thoughts are welcome.

Fun and Interesting

  • Leigh Honeywell is a super smart and accomplished person, one of the many people I compare myself unfavourably to (I KNOW), so on the one hand it's kind of surprising that she was dianosed with ADHD, but on the other hand a lot of people with ADHD are really smart and work their asses off to achieve things. Anyway, she smashed out a quick blog post about her first year post-diagnosis, and it's a pretty interested read even for those of us who just identify as lazy and easily distracted. A quick and dirty post about my first year-ish with ADHD (hypatia.ca)
  • Andrew Sullivan wrote a pieces for New York Magazine a couple of years ago about the relentless influx of information and stimulation, and the loss of silences and empty spaces in modern life. I know, it's all been said before, but it's beautifully written and thought-provoking. I Used to Be a Human Being (nymag.com)
  • I could watch this little guy all day. I don't know why. Desert rain frog (youtube.com

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or hit forward and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

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