Letting Go of the Little Things
Get over it. If there’s something coming between you and a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor, you’ve got to ask yourself: “Is this really big enough to matter?”
Chances are you will have to say “no” if you are being honest with yourself.
We let so many little things get in the way of our relationships with others. We magnify truly trivial things to justify our hurt, anger or disappointment in other, unrelated situations. By bringing all that baggage into relationships with us, we give too much power to the past. We end up with broken connections because we put little things ahead of big things (like the people we care about!).
Think back over the past week or two. How many times have you been irritated by something that, in the grand scheme of things, is relatively insignificant? The mess your co-worker left in the sink… the wrong direction your roommate loaded the new toilet paper roll… the text your spouse didn’t reply to… the chore your child didn’t do… the birthday your brother forgot to send a card for… Do these things really, truly matter? Are they worth the time and emotional energy you spend on them? Do you really want to let them impact your relationships with the people in your life?
Now think about what was really on your mind when those little things became bigger than they should have. It wasn’t really about the toilet paper. It was what the toilet paper represented in that moment – your loss of control because you share a space, a perceived disrespect for your preferences, or a disgruntlement about bigger differences perhaps.
Those are the things you need to be talking about instead of nagging or sulking about the toilet paper roll. Those are the issues that need to be resolved if the relationship is to survive. Try pausing when a little thing causes a big reaction inside you just long enough to figure out what the bigger issue is. Your ability to identify what’s really going on will give you control over your next steps.
I recently decided to give up on a friendship after I stepped back to evaluate it in this way. I’m pretty sure my friend had issues with me, too, but I still don’t know exactly what they were. That’s the problem. She was sniping about little things I couldn’t change and disapproving of insignificant things in a way I never fully understood. Since we couldn’t get past that, I just had to back away.
If you have people around you who frequently complain about the little things, ask them the question I wish I had asked my friend. Ask “what’s really bothering you?” in a tone that is inviting and open. Don’t take the bait to quibble about the little things that don’t matter. Instead, try to go for the real problem so you can resolve it. When the real problems remain unresolved, they just come back over and over again disguised as little issues.
To build and maintain connections, we have to be willing to let go of the little things so we can address the big things. When the people we have relationships with matter to us, we owe it to them and to ourselves to talk about what really matters.
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