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Never be a wet blanket

I have come to understand, quite late, that how we become killjoys or hijackers or thieves of joy. So, I noticed a killjoy style in me when my son came rushing to me with some good news, and I barely paid attention to him. I hardly looked up from the newspaper, rather I felt distracted.

He felt hurt and looked down. I tried to figure out what pushed me into being that? Maybe, I was tired at that time, feeling bored, engaged in something else. I could have told him to come back later.

But imagine, particularly me as a parent, when I am back home after a tiring day. Maybe thinking about what has been happening at work, and my son comes bounding up to me and says, "Dad, an amazing thing happened. I want to tell you about it." And I, in that moment, retort, "You know what? Just give 15 minutes, let me get out of my work clothes."

The problem is that no one would come back later. And even if I sought the child out, "Tell me now, Dad wants to know, what were you so excited about?" Guess what? The joy that he’s sharing 15 minutes later isn’t the same that he wanted to share. So, we are a killjoy sometimes because we believe we will do it later. It doesn’t work like that. Working towards a joyful me, therefore, I have decided to give the people I love more of what they want the moment they want it.

Sometimes I notice people picking up on another’s conversation, and changing it to something else like a joy hijacker. For example, some exciting news comes to me — say, friends are thinking about taking a long road trip to Shimla. I change the conversation to my upcoming cricket match. And one could see the other getting upset and confused about why I changed the conversation. Someone comes to me with good news and before I know it, instead of shining the light on that other person, I begin shining the light on myself. Why do we do that? Maybe we feel envious. So, to become a joyful me, I am working towards giving up the habit of envying or competing with people to show oneupmanship.

Sometimes we respond describing the problems involved with the good news. In the case above, I say that is good news, but the trip will consume a lot of time. I am worried because my time is committed elsewhere, and I don’t know where I am going to have all that time. All right, that style is called joy thief. What I did is that I pointed out all the problems to the good news. My focus was negative. And my negativity drained the other’s joy. I didn’t mirror the excitement. Well, the person went from joy to worried. The person wasn’t feeling any closer to me, and was worried about what previously made him or her so excited. I realised being high on critical thinking or judgment makes me a joy thief. So, I am trying to overcome the factors or notions that make me a joy thief, as it creates heart burning, distrust, and starts splitting the connection that person has with me.

I realised that I must respond to good news joyfully and actively, like the above road trip news, saying, hey, who made this amazing trip? How did this idea come to you? I am so excited about it. Psychologist Shelly Gable calls this as the active constructive style that strengthens relationships and makes you a joy multiplier in conversations. You make good eye contact, you smile, you mirror the excitement. It would be a shared joy. So, I try to unmute my positive emotions and lend myself to the person interacting with me. That’s what joyful me is all about, and which will build my relationships.

tkmishra@ramanujan.du.ac.in

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 6:15:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/never-be-a-wet-blanket/article32936002.ece

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