If it hasn’t already happened to you, it will. Consider this example:
You had never been to Niagara Falls, but two months ago, you were finally able to make it happen. It was a great trip. The weather was near perfect and the crowds of people were orderly. You were truly able to enjoy and appreciate what’s captured imaginations since the days of the early explorers. The majesty of all that falling water is magnificent.
Soon after getting back home, you run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while. They ask what you’ve been up to lately, and quite naturally, you tell them you’re still excited about your recent trip to Niagara Falls and how good it felt to finally see what you’d heard about for so long.
You expect your friend to acknowledge what you’ve just said by saying something such as: “Oh my, I bet that was exciting. What all did you do while you were there?” Instead, you hear something like this:
“Larry and I made that trip a couple of years ago, stayed in the big hotel there that overlooks the falls, and were lucky enough to get a room high enough that the view was just tremendous. We liked it so much, we stayed an extra day. Once you’ve seen ‘em, though, that’s it.”
“Well, everybody talks about how great Niagara Falls is, but it’s no match for Victoria Falls in Africa. We were there last year and it’s about the most spectacular thing we’ve seen in a long time. They’d had unusually heavy rains a few weeks before we got there, so more water than ever was going over the falls.”
Both answers were shut-outs. Without bothering to even acknowledge what you said, they upstaged you by stressing they’d already been there or implying that what they saw was so much better.
Either way, they’re saying your experience didn’t count, but theirs did. That they were smarter or luckier than you were. That what they did was bigger, grander, or more important than what you did.
Not only did they shut you out, but they also put you down. They had no interest in what you did, how you reacted to something you’d always wanted to see, or how much you enjoyed yourself.
Remember, this is only an example. It can occur with any subject — special events such as a wedding, seeing a celebrity, being promoted, winning a contest, any happening that the other person thinks isn’t the least bit noteworthy or that they have already been involved with.
Not long ago, I was visiting a now retired and highly successful CEO of a large corporation. We somehow drifted on to this subject. He looked at me with a grin and said, “You know what you call that, don’t you, you call it competitive conversation.”
He’s correct. That other person is competing with you. Their story is better than yours. Their experience was greater than yours. They had more fun than you did. They were luckier than you. They wanted to equal what you did. Except it isn’t, it wasn’t, they didn’t, they weren’t, and they never will.
Everyone has their own way of reacting, interpreting, and learning. All our experiences are different. Based on needs, wants, abilities and requirements, all of us are free to choose whatever we do, to take our lives to whatever levels we can or wish, and to achieve and receive in accordance with that effort.
It means telling your friend how glad you are they finally made it to Niagara Falls. If you haven’t been there, it means asking them how you can make the most of your first time.
None of us has the right to do that any differently.