The phone beeps as you are rushing around trying to get out the door for an important scheduled meeting. You grab it. The words, “Sorry, I won’t make it, something has come up” light up the screen. You’ve spent psychological and physical energy preparing for it, and now it’s not happening. And you are finding out only when you have already planned your day around it, were looking forward to it and moved other things aside to accommodate it.
That would be acceptable if it wasn’t the second or third time this person was doing this. It may even be excusable if they gave you a respectable amount of notice, instead of cancelling just before it was supposed to happen. You can wave away the irritation of wasted energy and planning by making excuses for them: “They have so much on their plate,” or “It’s not personal, it’s just how they are.”
But you should also consider that what you are offering is not critically important to them and you are simply not a high value individual to them.
When you blow off people, recklessly make and cancel plans with them, leave them hanging until the last minute, leave their messages grey for long periods or forever, and make big promises that you don’t intend to keep, you are showing them they are not of high value to you. If you are on the receiving end, it should dawn on you what your place really is. If the person asks you to do things they think are perfectly fine, yet you think are humiliating or beneath you, they’re sending a clear message about what category of worth you fit into.
The world is busy, and it is competitive. It’s fair to say that sometimes the demands on our time are overwhelming and we cannot be all things to all people. We may overestimate just how much bandwidth we have for a meeting, a drink, a lunch or a quick catch-up and end up committing when we should be saying no. Then regret sets in and we dilly-dally instead of just being straight with people, causing unnecessary damage in the process.
You may end up taking people for granted, hoping that as usual they will forgive you and make excuses for you. But consider whether what you are doing to person X is what you would do with someone else you’ve been dying to meet or spend time with. And if it is not, then you are simply relegating person X to the lower value individual list, there for when you want to see them on your terms.
It happens with children sometimes.
A friend’s son is becoming an adult. The lad is usually focused on the demands of his own life, keeping his friends happy, making his parents’ wishes a lower priority and being generally aloof to their expectations to clean his room, be consciously present during family time, and volunteer to be useful around the home. All this boy can think about is living life on his terms and building his priorities around himself. Humans call this selfishness. What’s telling is that when he is in need, or is building up to something he wants, he begins to lay the groundwork by being strategically attentive to his parents. He will be extra nice, answer their texts, or even initiate conversation and feign interest, but once he gets what he wants; that item, outing or favour, he’s back to being the Mayor of Cold Town.
We can say, “That’s just teenagers, he doesn’t really mean it.” But the reality is, that if his parents were truly high value to him he would genuinely invest in and honour that relationship. They would know they were high value because they would experience and feel it. They wouldn’t be passed over in favour of something else, that ends up leaving them with the now useless extra concert ticket, empty seat at the dinner table, absent member of family movie night.
Here’s the thing about making excuses for people. You validate their kak behaviour while accepting your place on the list of Things and People Less Important. Why do we think so little of our own value and not demand that others place value on our time and feelings?
In romantic relationships, there tends to be the lover and the beloved. There is usually one person who wants it more than the other. The one who wants it more is the lover. The lover will go out of their way to demonstrate their affections. There will be a flower, a chocolate, a poem, a gorgeous text, an invitation to something nice, a call, a gesture.
In return, all there’ll be is the sound of an icy wind coursing through the empty corridor of your expectations. Occasionally you’ll get something here, and something there. You’ll smile stupidly at the crumbs while tightening your belt so you don’t feel the hunger from being starved of attention. You can see clearly what’s going on, but your need for the delusion pulls a veil across your eyes, til what’s left is illusion and lies. “They’ll come around, I just have to persist.” We should stop fooling ourselves and expect better for ourselves.
In friendships value gets tested too. You know you are the go-to when you’re the crisis friend. Someone is in trouble or their heart is breaking and you are treated to a full and gory debrief, with all the pageantry that rejection brings; the red and swollen crying eyes, the wailing in pain, the minutia of “he did this and that” and “I feel this and that”. Yet in the daily, you don’t even get a hello or a check-in. What’s worse is that your invitation to a spa day or an important introduction to a network for your business seems perpetually lost in the email.
Isn’t it remarkable how when someone needs you they know how to find you quickly, but when you’re not needed it’s like you become lost in the Bermuda Triangle because for some reason there’s no cell signal, their messages didn’t go through or you are fed all manner of fantastical and ridiculous excuses. “I’ve been meaning to call you.” Yes, so why didn’t you? You, my dear, are not a high value individual to them.
Sometimes you should just let go.
Some people don’t have the guts to tell you gently, “Look, we’re not going to be friends,” or “I just don’t like you that much,” or “I like you enough as a person, but I just don’t want you in my life.” So read the signs, save yourself some heartache and find better friends.
With family, it’s harder and a little more complicated, but it’s also time to lay down the burden of always being the nice one. They have the chutzpah to show you how little you matter, so it’s okay to return the favour while being clear. “Aunty So-and-so, I don’t feel comfortable when you always call me for help, yet you never check up on me and the kids.”
How to rapid test if you are high value?
- People honour their commitments to you.
- Your messages are responded to within a reasonable time, or you get a genuine explanation and/or apology for the delay.
- You experience being a top priority.
But you know what? You bear part of the responsibility for perpetuating your low value status by condoning it.
Stop making excuses for people you should be culling from your list of associations.
Have more self-respect.
Believe that you are worth being a friend or a lover to.
Respect yourself, your resources of money and time, and deploy them wisely. Self-worth is a priceless perfume; its scent will attract respect and reciprocity. And if you find yourself making a habit of blowing people off, or minimising their value, perhaps without really intending to make them feel less-than, have the strength to say what you feel, so that you don’t impair your own reputation and self-opinion. This world doesn’t have to stay lost in relationships and associations built on deception, game playing, expediency, and strategy.