At work the other day I had a rather high level of happiness and it was noted by one of my coworkers with both amusement and annoyance. I noted how I imagined some people might find my happiness overwhelming. My coworker responded, “You can be happy, but just don’t TOO happy all the time.” I paused for a moment, astounded. Too happy? Hmmph. “No, I’m going to be as happy as I want whenever I want. If people don’t like it that is just too bad. I don’t think being happy is something to be ashamed of.” My co-worker’s eyebrows arched with surprise, but she smiled and agreed.
I’ve been told I am “too much” of something in one way or another most of my life. Too happy, too friendly, too outgoing, too talkative, too outside of the status quo, too sensitive; I’ve been told I think too much and I say “sorry” too much (that is actually true). Hell, I’ve been told I’m too tall. At this point in my life – being an adult I guess – it irritates me when people feel licensed to say this to me. Because what these words can communicate is a level of intolerance, a lack of acceptance, and an implication that I should be ashamed of these attributes. But are they truly shame worthy? No, I would say most of them are not.
It is my natural inclination to reflect on what about me may make people feel comfortable passing these judgments. Perhaps it is my people-pleasing demeanor, or that I show audible concern for the influence my actions may negatively have on others. Something to work on perhaps, but I think the other person has some more important thinking to do.
What I believe people are feeling when they pass these evaluations on a person’s character – if I can project a bit here – is uncomfortable. Perhaps they are stressed or feeling negative, and interacting with a very happy person makes it difficult for them to navigate their feelings in that atmosphere. Perhaps they are tired, shy, or quiet… perhaps they are simply not interested in what is being communicated. Rather than launching into a critical assessment of a person’s behavior in an attempt to shut it down or convey one’s surprise (“You’re too happy…” or “You think too much…”), it would be better to communicate his or her feelings more self-referentially. “I am sorry – I am not feeling too talkative right now. I’ve got my mind wrapped up in a project,” or, “It’s nice to see you’re so excited. I’m pretty tired myself. Keep up the good day.”
It is very possible people might find a behavior annoying or fake or superficial. But this perception certainly doesn’t give that person the right to criticize that behavior, particularly if the traits are generally held as positive by society at large. Truly, if I took the same sort of license with others that historically they have taken with me, I don’t imagine it would be appreciated. If I said, “You’re too quiet,” “You are always so negative,” “Boy you sure are grumpy every day,” I have a feeling people would view that as rather unkind and uncalled for. After all, what do I know of their personal circumstances? Who am I to judge? And why kick someone if they are down? Thing is, we shouldn’t kick someone while they are up, either.
Shy people can adjust to overtly friendly ones, just as chatty-Cathy’s can accept not everyone is going to volley back a verbose reply. Rather than casting judgment, whether silently or verbally, perhaps the best action is to pause and consider who you are interacting with as well as consider the type of person you are (with all your expectations, cultural behaviors, and opinions on proper etiquette). These are simple differences that can be accommodated and adjusted for, rather than noted in an offensive, dismissive regard.
The world needs quiet people and talkative ones, upbeat happy bubbly folks and low-key, laid-back people, too. We can’t all be either a “Tigger” or an “Eeyore”; we need both to give society a little balance. So, I’ll make you a little deal. When I’m super-happy in one of my bouncy-bouncy fun-fun “Tigger” moods, I’ll do my best to carefully circumnavigate the personal space of the “Eeyore” people out there. And maybe they can do best to stay out of my rambunctious path! 😉