“If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” – Chinese proverb.
If you search Google on selfishness, the majority of entries will tell you that you have to be selfish to look after yourself and to succeed in life. You are ensuring that you are contributing to society and not a burden. It is a sort of natural selfishness and is closely related to our survival. It must take priority over helping others. Pretty harmless, you might think…
Then you will find entries on what is termed ‘bad selfishness’ where people exploit others, commit criminal acts to gain money or power by means of fraud, dishonesty and violence. Very nasty, you might shudder…
I have given two rather extreme examples above, but have you thought about more subtle ways in which you may have been selfish unknowingly? Here are 10 examples of the way selfish people behave and without even realizing it.
“Even six-year-olds who scream, ‘You’re selfish!’ have agendas.” – Rick Gaber
1. They are unaware of the imbalance in a relationship
Any healthy relationship has to have a near perfect balance. This goes for personal and work relationships. If people are all for taking and giving nothing back, then they are selfish and will be shocked when this is pointed out to them. In the workplace, that may be very difficult to broach when your colleague has been selfish in demanding help and giving nothing back. This could be never giving advice, support or performing actual hard work. This can have a terrible effect on staff morale.
2. They baptize their children with weird names
Whatever the reason, these parents are determined to go for something trendy or completely original. This is selfishness because they are not putting their children first: children who will be teased at school and suffer endless corrections of the pronunciation or spelling of the name, not to mention all the incorrect variations that will be floating around. It’s an example of selfish self-absorption and little thought is given to how the child will cope. There are mixed results from studies which might indicate whether the weird name is a handicap or not. A classic is the girl who was called Sue Yoo who become a lawyer!
3. They are nagged
“It’s good to be selfish. But not so self-centered that you never listen to other people.” – Hugh Hefner.
When nagging is a prominent feature in a relationship, it can only mean that the nagged partner is completely insensitive to the other partner’s needs. This can range from not tidying up to being forgetful. It also means that the guilty partner does not take into account their partner’s wishes. The partner who is doing the nagging may well be obsessed and this could be another aspect of selfishness as they are selfishly giving far too much attention to their obsessions and manias!
4. They do not bother to give negative feedback
Whether it is your partner, child or colleague, there is a tendency to gloss over negative feedback or not to give any at all. It may seem a charitable thing to do because you are not hurting the person’s feelings or destroying their confidence, however this is an act of selfishness because you are passing up an opportunity to help the person to improve and do better. Being nice in many cases is the short cut to popularity. In the long term, it could come back and haunt you if you have failed in your duty.
5. They are control freaks
People in management are sometimes control freaks. Their motto seems to be, “If you want to do it right, do it yourself.” Control freaks are usually perfectionists and they are convinced that they are the only capable people in a company or family. The strange thing is that they themselves believe they are benevolently keeping an eye out and are being genuinely helpful and concerned. The reality is that their behavior is selfish to the point of killing initiative, discouraging creativity or even delegating tasks.
6. They are manipulative
The other side of the coin of being a control freak. They are so fearful of losing their position of authority that they employ some nasty tactics. A classic example is where they will not consider a compromise. That means a loss of power. They use their manipulative skills to get the boss on their side. Then they will use tactics such as being perfectly charming while trying to find out information about colleagues and then subtly accuse others or discredit them. If you read Dr. Mary Casey’s book, How to Deal With Master Manipulators, you will discover many other examples of selfish acts.
7. They are the only people on the planet
How many times have we fumed against people blocking doorways, smoking when it is forbidden, talking loudly on the phone or acting selfishly when driving? These acts of selfishness happen all the time and are obvious manifestations of people thinking they are the only people on the planet.
There are other more subtle examples that we may be unaware of. What about people who may be engrossed with their iPhone and block the aisle on the plane, shop or train? Others get impatient when they do not get an immediate answer to their email. These acts of selfishness make life more difficult for everyone else.
8. They never clean their dog’s mess
When I visited Scotland last year, there were prominent notices saying, “Your dog, your mess, your £40 fine.” The next time you see a person ‘forgetting’ to clean up, ask them to take their dog’s mess home. It is their property after all! Civic duty is still sadly lacking in many areas and selfishness is all around us.
9. They hate team work
Selfish people are unwilling to share, give or brainstorm. They want to work alone because they are in a competitive environment but this selfishness will work against them if they are not careful. An ex-colleague kept a lot of information to herself because she was secretive and selfish. She never got the promotion she so desired and we could all see why.
I remember one of my first bosses who kept all his teacher training materials at home. Nobody else had access to them so we had to reinvent the wheel when running our own training sessions. I have never hated a boss so much! Giving and sharing are rare words in the selfish person’s vocabulary.
10. They rarely collaborate
It’s all about ego. They know what they want and they are always to the forefront to make sure they get it. When they see an obstacle they become defiant or refuse to collaborate. In addition, their refusal to give an inch is just a symptom of classic selfishness. After all, why should they bother to go out of their way to discover what people are feeling, their ideas, hopes and ambitions?
“I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.” – Unknown.
Featured photo credit: Parking mayhem at Kota Kinabalu/ Jason Thien via flickr.com