I’m one of those people who has pet peeves… lots of them. Do you creep into the crosswalk without stopping first at the stop line to see if there are pedestrians? IT REALLY ANNOYS ME WHEN YOU DO THAT. Do you “share” pictures on FaceBook with bad grammar written over them (such as, “I seen that”)? GAWD, STOP IT NOW. Are you grumpy or blasé on the phone as a customer service representative? IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE NICE.
Okay, okay. The only person I can change is myself, right? So I try to do just that. I notice, nearly every morning, some driver stopping in the middle of the crosswalk because he or she can’t see to turn into traffic. But there I am, baby strapped to my front, pushing a stroller, dog on the leash, kindergartner prattling on about Star Wars, and I’d like to cross to the next corner. I’m not going to walk my troupe out into traffic, so I have to wait until the car in the intersection either backs up (unlikely, in my experience) or turns into traffic (it can take awhile). So I’ve been paying close attention to my stopping habits in the car. I try hard to stop at stop lines and then creep out into the crosswalk to check traffic, after I look for pedestrians.
I try to drive like I learned how to drive 19 years ago and follow the damn rules.
This is not, actually, a post about driving.
There are two things that have been bothering me lately that are much tougher habits to break: excuses and taking compliments.
Have you noticed that when most people are late, they say “Sorry I’m late, but…” and immediately give the reason (excuse) why? For me, the reason is often that I tried to do too many things in the short time before I had to leave to be somewhere. Like, I’ll just put this load of laundry in so it will be done when I get home, even though if I left right now, not five minutes from now, I’d be pushing it to be on time. That, or the kids wouldn’t put on their shoes. Seriously, what is with that? They want to go where we’re going, but they never want to put on their shoes. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I ask the boys to put on their shoes each morning. Leaving the house is the most yell-y part of my day.
Well, anyway, excuses. They’re kind of rude, you know? Like, you were expected to show up somewhere on time and you didn’t, so you say you’re sorry… and then you add that little “but” in there to somehow justify yourself. It’s not just lateness, it’s “sorry I didn’t get this done, but…” or “sorry the house is such a mess, but…” And I used to do it all the time but I try not to anymore because people don’t need the reason for my tardiness or absence or absent-mindedness or ineffective prioritizing skills.
I think just saying “sorry” is much more respectful of whomever I’m saying it to. I’m late to Boot Camp? “I’m sorry I’m late.” End of story. I didn’t iron the shirts? “I’m sorry.” The house is a pigsty? “I’m sorry for the mess.” Simple, respectful, correct. I’m not trying to convince myself or anyone else that it’s somehow acceptable for me to have done wrong by giving an excuse.
Sometimes there’s a good story, of course. The house might be a mess because the kids found the Costco-sized package of shaving cream. Or the dog brought a dead rat inside. Maybe you’re late because the baby had a blowout of such epic proportions and you’re still reeling. Save the story. Telling it immediately following an apology tempers the apology and makes it less valuable.
Similarly, it bugs me when I give someone a compliment and they say “Thank you, but…” Like, I have a terrible habit of saying “thank you, but I still have 20 pounds to go!” whenever someone compliments me on losing the baby weight. I do still have 20 pounds to go before I’m at pre-pregnancy weight, but I don’t need to remind anyone! Someone just told me I look great, and I can’t just say “thank you!” and enjoy the compliment? What’s wrong with me?
Saying “thank you, but…” just undermines the compliment. It’s not respectful to the compliment-giver and it’s not respectful to yourself. “You did a wonderful job on this (project, assignment, job)!” “Thank you, but it was nothing.” Oh, really? It was nothing? So you don’t value your effort and neither should I? “Your hair looks fabulous!” “Thanks, but I totally need to get it cut, it is so grody.” (Can we please bring “grody” back as an adjective?) Oh, so you don’t like yourself and my taste in hair is skewed? I don’t want to send those negative messages, so I’m trying my damndest to just say “thank you!” and leave it at that.
Try it this week. Try to stop at the stop line before creeping into the crosswalk. Try to just say “I’m sorry,” instead of giving an excuse. Say “thank you” when someone gives you a compliment and don’t amend it with anything. It feels good, I promise.
So there you have it: Amelia’s Continuous Self-Improvement Plan: Don’t Commit Your Own Pet Peeves.