I have a hard time relating to people who have their priorities out of whack. It’s like there could be a giant tree that has fallen and crushed the roof of their house but they want to talk about the weed in the lawn that is really bothering them. I don’t know what to say to this kind of talk. I don’t have a lot of patience for it.
It could be that focusing on trivia when there are much bigger issues at hand is a coping skill (albeit not a very good one). And that might be the case in some instances, especially when the bigger problem is out of their control or simply too much to deal with all at once. That I understand. As I write this, I’m trying to think if I ever do that; become preoccupied with small stuff when I can’t do anything about the larger concerns. It’s possible.
What I’m getting at, though, isn’t about situations where nothing can be done. It is when people willfully refuse to prioritize, when they could do something about an important problem or issue that needs their attention, and instead obsess over minutia and – significantly – want to talk about it and enlist your involvement. They want you to respond in kind. That I cannot do. Humoring people is not my strong suit.
I gauge my response, if any, depending on the relationship, with responses like:
Why is that important?
Why are you telling me about this?
Why is that bothering you?
Don’t you have bigger problems?
You might want to forget about the weed and do something about the tree in your roof.
One idea that keeps coming up time and again is that what all people, whoever they are, really want is to be acknowledged, valued, and heard. To feel that they, and their contribution, matter. And I see a good deal of evidence to support that. On a personal level it rings true too. I have a hard time, though, reconciling this apparent truism with all the trivia talkers, the people who forego important things, the high priority stuff, in favor of minutia. Who seem to have no priorities.