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What To Do If You’re Always An Option But Never A Priority

What To Do If You’re Always An Option But Never A Priority

There are times when you realize you are an option and not a priority, and if you don’t realize it, you are haunted by the thought.

When you get together with a certain someone, you feel like the third wheel or the last one invited to the party.  You are the plus one.  Maybe you suspect you are some last minute arrangement.  Sometimes you may feel like you are being edged out by some invisible force, like a new, more interesting version of you with more time or more money or fewer problems.

I’ve been there, too, too many times.  I have been the understanding girlfriend, the accommodating wife, the forgiving sister and the easy-going friend.  I would make excuses like, “Well, they are just a) busy b) stressed c) going through a rough time or d) in a weird place right now.”  And sometimes these things could have been true.  I would tell myself I needed to be less self-centered, egocentric or needy, which sounded healthy.  I’d go over what I didn’t do right.  I’d try to be THE better person and give them a pass.  I’d try to be a better person more worthy of their attentions and affections.

But after exhausting myself, I had to come to terms:  I had allowed myself to become “the option person” in life.   And although we can’t make people make us a priority, we do have the power to enable ourselves to become a “priority person” in life.  And here is how it can be done by you and me.

1. Make yourself and your needs a priority

I know it might sound counter-intuitive to you, but the truth is people like you because you make them the priority and they don’t have to make you a priority.  By indulging yourself, doing what you want, when you want, how you want, even if you are alone while doing it, you are really carving out your own dominion.

The people who want to make you a priority will come to your kingdom or they can play elsewhere.

If you are a very giving person, you will have a hard time with this.  If necessary, get a pet or a garden going that needs you to make them a priority.  You will fulfill your need to be giving in a healthy way that doesn’t set up these relationships where you are second best.

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But truly, you need to start living for yourself, not for another person.

2. Recognize the users in your life, even if they are family

It is difficult to identify and then distance yourself from the users in your life, especially if it is family members who have been the ones who have taught you since birth through their actions that you and your wants aren’t very important.  It could be that they have their own emotional baggage, and you can be compassionate about it, but if they are repeatedly enforcing the message that you are not good enough or that your needs shouldn’t come first, then you have to take a step back from them when the time is right for you.

Someone taught you to be the “option person,” and you have to get real about who that person or those people are.  It will be life altering when you take the blinders off.  Promise.

3. List the value of you

It may sound dopey, but for all the time you might spend criticizing and putting yourself down, you at the least need to make a mental lists of your valuable assets.  You have them.  You have your funny side, your compassionate side, your loving side, your nurturing side, your smart side, your hard-working side, and so many other sides.  List them.  Pin them up on a mirror.  Every day we spend time looking in mirrors to check out our face, teeth, and clothes.  Have some internal, introspective, beneath-the-surface qualities that demonstrate you are worthy.  Chances are you’ve forgotten some.

After internalizing your list, you’ll notice better when others don’t appreciate you, and you’ll know sooner to stop wasting emotional energy on them or to re-prioritize them as an option person, too.

4. Invest yourself in a worthy cause

I don’t think we think about volunteering and charity as a self-help tool, but it can be.  If you are a giving person, give to a cause that will benefit from your good works.  Don’t dump your energy into people who are not valuing you.  It does no good.  But do give yourself to helping others and causes you care about, you will be doing something of value.

And just think of it, you just added another reason you are a valuable, worthy person.  Viola!

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5. Don’t turn back!

It is difficult for me not to look back on the good times with people and not think better times will come around, but realistically, you shouldn’t turn back.  Once you have realized you are the option, not the priority, a priority person will not look back or go back to being the option person.  It will hurt.  I haven’t had the experience where someone wanted to know what went wrong and try to work on things. I’ve either gotten silence or a caustic list of how I am the cause of all wrong.  So unless you want to be the doormat or someone’s whipping dog or slip back into being just an option, you have to move forward.

Hope is a really great thing unless it is distorting your reality and derailing your future.

6. Believe that better people and better things are just ahead!

Reading over other online posts, the number one reason people get stuck being an option and are unable to make themselves a priority is because they don’t believe there is someone or something better just ahead.  Maybe few people want to admit it, but it seems a lot of drama is coming out of the idea that they are “meant to be” with a certain someone:  Giving up on that person is giving up on love. Giving up means breaking our word. We promised. We committed. We must remain faithful and true to the end. We must go down with the ship!

But the thing is, once the other person has given up on love, stopped trying, started investing themselves elsewhere, the love stopped existing.  Once the friendship was left behind, it withered and died.  Relationships, like plants, need things to live and more care to thrive.  Hanging on to someone or something because of a story you told yourself a few years ago is going to take away the best things in your life:  your possibilities and your future.

As cliche as it is, it is true:  every ending is something else’s beginning.  And if you have worked on yourself and your priorities, the right people and opportunities will show themselves.

7. Stay fluid and continue to make new friends

One of the reasons high school can be terrible or some job can be awful is because we get stuck with the same people and the same routines.  Nothing new or interesting happens unless someone new comes into the group. But instead of waiting for someone new to come to you, like “option people” do, you need to go out and meet new people, make new friends and contacts, and expand your horizons.  As an “option person” you probably fenced yourself in.  You maybe even lost touch with other people because you were trying to stay available for that other person or because you allowed yourself to get sucked into all their plans having none of your own.

Even the worst dating article I read had a truth in it; no one will make you a priority until you make them show you are a priority.

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And if you are hanging around hoping that certain someone will finally give you the metaphoric red roses you deserve, you have turned your back on the person who is already ready to do so.  So drop off that other person’s radar.  If they come around, great.  If they don’t, which is more likely, even better.  Because to tell you the truth, it seems me many want second chances because they can get third, fourth, and fifth ones too.  How tiresome are they?  Let them learn the hard way.  Don’t continue to be their soft landing spot in life.

8. Be direct with what you want from the relationship

This may send you into panic mode, and if it does, I’m sorry.  But really, if you don’t like being an option and you don’t like being taken for granted and if you want more, you have to have “the talk.”  I know this is the best thing and should be probably number one.  It probably makes all the other stuff I’ve said non-issues.  And I know for a lot of people it will be like scheduling a root canal and then showing up to find out they are out of laughing gas.  But in some ways, it isn’t much more effort than number one, making yourself and your needs a priority.  But you have to actually communicate them to the someone significant in your life, or the someone you wish to become significant in your life.

You may even need your list of value in hand, to remind yourself you are worth it.

9. Be okay with being on your own without turning into a hermit or emotionally shallow

You may be hanging on and becoming comfortable with being an option person largely because you are more afraid of being alone and feeling lonely. Or you are more comfortable with the lack of intimacy in your relationship.  Or you’re afraid of intimacy. Sometimes distant relationships or relationships that come and go easily aren’t because they are these great, epic friendships where people are so perfectly comfortable with each other they can pick up where they started.  Sometimes they work because the people in these relationships lack emotional depth or are avoiding long-term intimacy that requires accountability.  You want to keep your depth, your ability to connect emotionally with someone, and to be able to be held equally accountable in a long-term relationship.  So while you need to be able to weather life on your own, you don’t want to become so comfortable that you lose you ability to have a meaningful relationship.

Meaningful relations are all about being a priority.

So while you need to be able to weather life on your own so you won’t settle or hang-on to the wrong people, you don’t want to become so comfortable that you lose you ability to have a meaningful relationship.

10. Allow yourself to be a little high-maintenance

I mention this one lastly because I believe many of you option people have tried so hard in life to be the accommodating one or to please someone or not to be upsetting or to be demanding in any way.  I’ve had people try to make it out like I was being high maintenance as a strategic move to get me to be the jellyfish friend or the sad-sap girlfriend they needed.  I’ve made friendships and relationships all about the other person, and sometimes I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.

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Most people need to work on number nine and quit trying to use people as their crutches, their door mats, or their whipping dogs.  People don’t need other people as much as they need to quit using each other and get right with themselves.  So sometimes, do yourself the favor, be high-maintenance, make some demands, and be able to let them and yourself walk alone.

There are times when we won’t and can’t be a priority to someone else we deeply care about, legitimate reasons like they have a very young child or an aged parent who is very ill.  There are times when we have to be understanding about the demands of an occupation like if the person works shifts or has to work with people in different time zones.  We have to know their passions and how this will impact the relationship.  It the legitimate reasons are for real and are not just subterfuge or out-and-out lies, you could be doing the right thing by staying open, accommodating, and flexible.

But if the other person is communicating to you that your are not worth being a priority, then feel free to walk on.

And of course, you may just need more than the other person can give.

So believe you will find yourself a worthy partner who will want to walk beside you not one who would have you chasing their shadow.

Featured photo credit: outdoor portrait of young model via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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