You know the story all too well. That sickening feeling in your stomach as you just agreed to something against your real wishes, or you tolerated something past the point of no return or maybe you are dealing with the consequences of a decision you buckled on.
The worst bit is when they now think you’re happy to do this all the time.
Whether it’s in business, personal relationships or even choosing a meal, you are constantly faced with the notion of ‘standards’. Those pesky but important little reminders in your head that help keep you on the straight and narrow of who you are and what you stand for.
Perhaps it’s cleanliness, punctuality or manners? Whatever the standards may be, we all have our grades of importance and it’s why one person can live in filth quite happily while I sit there in extreme agitation at the sight of a smear on a plate.
So the big issue is when those two standards collide. Their standards and yours. In your mind you have a rosy picture of how you wish your life to be and the types of outcomes you’d like to produce and in their head they have their own.
Unfortunately when someone describes a situation with a broad stroke such as ‘I want a happy relationship’, ‘I want to be successful’, ‘I like nice things’ or even just ‘Oh it’s SO expensive’ we immediately refer to our own standards and try to relate.
For example, I think paying for business class plane tickets is worth $6000, whilst the next guy looks at me as if I’m the embodiment of everything that is wrong with capitalism. It’s nothing to do with the ticket or the $6000 as a pile of money, but rather his ‘standards’ of what a plane ticket should cost to him or what he would spend $6000 on instead.
I’ve also met people who think a happy relationship is one they aren’t cheated in or because ‘he’s nice to me’. I often laugh as these people have set the bar so low to ‘must have heartbeat and a head’ and then they wonder why they don’t meet prince charming. You gotta get more specific, fussier and be prepared to be unpopular to meet your standard!
The thing with standards is that you are really the only one that cares about maintaining them. As a result it means the higher you set them, the less people you will encounter who will share those same values and will carry the same level of priority. It also will frustrate others who think you’re being pedantic because they are prepared to compromise sooner than you would.
It’s why over the years whilst in my own little world, I will wash out a glass (even in my own house) because I want to make sure it’s clean right up to the point that I use it. Most of my friends laugh at my ‘OCD’ but to me that’s just my standard. I don’t impose it on others and I’ve settled with the fact I will possibly be on my own for the rest of my life with this particular standard.
Other standards however are a bit harder NOT to impose which can then cause conflict.
Let’s take swearing for instance. A friend of mine HATES swearing, while I love it. To me they’re just words that exist to really emphasise the point and it turns out that I like to emphasise regularly. Based on her standards, her dislike of swearing is something that she often pushes onto others in a bid for them to adapt their language especially for her and/or even at times trying to persuade them to indefinitely change their behaviour.
I always laugh because I claim that she doesn’t swear enough and argue just as emphatically all the f***ing reasons why she should.
Regardless of this friendly banter, I actually tend to swear less around her because I know it will upset her and so in essence by her being true to her ‘standards’, I have been influenced to respect them. It doesn’t mean I had to change my own but I give consideration that her standards differ from mine and it’s fairer to agree than disagree. Likewise, when I do swear she doesn’t jump down my throat as she knows it’s about making a mutual, conscientious effort.
Now swearing as my example may seem very benign, however it holds an important pattern that extends into trivial things such as cleaning to vegetarianism to your career to even domestic violence and crime and beyond.
It’s about two people with their own version of what should be ‘standard’ and their ultimate desire to win out. I think the centuries of wars however demonstrate that it rarely ends peacefully but rather one side is forced to compromise and thus holds generations of resentment. And resentment just becomes postponed conflict.
It takes courage to set high standards and it takes huge self-belief to enforce them publicly. And most people don’t have this self-belief or courage and so they spend their days being doormats forever compromising to the standards of others. Waiting patiently without saying ‘hey don’t waste my time’ to being cheated in love and business by people who don’t value the importance of relationships as much as they do.
Please remember, you are setting the bar and living up to it every second of every day. Not setting the bar because you don’t want to ‘impose’ is still setting the bar – it’s now just at its lowest point.