Tag Archives: risks

Nobody Wins the Waiting Game

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you?  Would you care for a glass of Berocca?

There’s a very nice pub near my house which my friends and I have nicknamed Hanging Gardens of Babylon, mainly because it has the best beer garden in the entire metropolis.  Last Thursday evening – despite the fact that it had been half-heartedly snowing all day – my friend and I decided to sit in said beer garden and have a jolly good catch up.

Wrapped up warm and clasping our pints, we endured the wintry weather by distracting ourselves with chat, and by militantly turning the outdoor heaters back on whenever they timed out.  After a while the conversation turned to our love lives and it transpired that my friend had recently met someone.  Sort of.  In her own words, she thought that “maybe there might be a sort of thing perhaps but not really oh I don’t know it’s complicated stop looking at me like that Vicki”.  I don’t know what she’s talking about, by the way.  I’ve never given anybody a look in my life.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the chap clearly likes her and has been trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to ask her out on a date via a popular social media messaging platform.  (For the record, lovely reader, it turns out that you can message people on Instagram.  Did you know that?  I had no idea.)  When I suggested that she take the initiative and ask the guy out herself, her first question was “can’t I wait for him to ask me out?”

I had two problems with this.  Firstly, what the hell is this “waiting” nonsense about?  The friend I am talking about is an absolute marvel.  She has found herself great jobs, created huge projects and been promoted umpteen times because she has always had precisely the opposite attitude to waiting around: she knows how to get things done.  Once she has decided that she wants to achieve something, she flipping well works her socks off until she achieves it.  This is a quality in her that many people love and admire, and her refusal to twiddle her thumbs and hope for the best is precisely what makes her such a powerful woman.  So why does she want to wait around to be asked out?

Secondly, this friend of mine was blithely ignoring the fact that the poor guy had been trying to ask her out for several days and that she had wilfully pretended not to notice.  Some people – most of us, if we’re honest – would rather ignore a whole bunch of signals than risk looking foolish by jumping even the tiniest distance from enormous hint to obvious conclusion.

Sadly, I think that a lot of us feel this way when it comes to emotional risks.  It is easier to wait and hope that the other person will be brave, never saying or doing anything that has any implications whatsoever, for fear of looking foolish and being exposed as someone who feels things.  The chap in question clearly felt this way and had been hoping that my friend would bite the bullet.  I suppose it doesn’t help that the metaphors we use for being bold are so violent: jumping the gun, biting the bullet, etc…

I know that succeeding in life and at work are not the same as being successful in love.  If you work hard at a diet then you will get healthier, for example, whereas there is no such guarantee when it comes to relationships.  Feelings are tricky bastards.  Having said that, if everyone sits around waiting for someone else to say something then nothing will ever get said.  The person who “loses” the waiting game is the one who is brave enough to speak up first.  So who is really the loser?

It took me a solid half hour to convince my friend to ask this guy out, and I had to threaten her with some dreadful stuff just to make her consider it: refusing to buy my round, for example, which is not a tactic I enjoy resorting to.  When she did eventually send the message, she immediately downed her pint and called me all sorts of names, which was absolutely fine.  But then she asked me another question: “what if he says no?”

And here we reach the heart of the matter.  What is the worst that can possibly happen if you put yourself out there and declare your true feelings?  What horrendous, life-ruining, earth-shattering consequences arise from risking rejection?  Obviously you lose your job, your friends abandon you and your ears fall off.  That’s how it works, right?  No?  Interesting…

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Chance is a Pretty Fine Thing

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Good morning, reader!  How are you feeling?  Ready for your weekend, I’ll bet.

Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess (i.e. a very good friend of mine) who had just come out of a horrible relationship.  Her ex-boyfriend had lied to her, stolen money from her and shown her no respect.  Out of shame and sadness, the princess had hidden most of this behaviour from the world, including the nasty boyfriend’s best friend.  The princess had always been good friends with the ex’s best friend, who was horrified when he discovered how badly his friend had been treating the princess.  In a fit of chivalry, he ditched the nasty friend, rushed to the princess’ side and vowed to support her – just as friends, you understand – with anything that she needed.  They rapidly became very good friends.

After several months of this very sweet friendship being strictly platonic and respectful, some courtiers (i.e. me and the girl’s parents) clocked that a pretty serious mutual crush was afoot.  Through subtle prodding and gentle encouragement – which mainly took the form of blatant chivvying – we got the girl to admit how she felt, and eventually she told him, too.  I believe his exact response to her declaration was “Thank God”.

I like that story for two major reasons: firstly, the girl in question is very important to me, and she really, really deserves that fairy tale ending.  Secondly, it was excruciatingly obvious to the rest of us that those two were nuts about each other, but in their respectively awkward situations they didn’t believe that the other person would or could feel the same.  The only way to find out conclusively was to take a chance.

Here is the thing about chances: we take them all the time without realising.  You cross a road because you expect to get to the other side (unless you are one of those mavericks who doesn’t wait for the green man, in which case you’ve really taken your life into your own hands).  We make suggestions in meetings at work, we pipe up with answers in lessons and we make jokes in the pub.  Nine times out of ten nothing terrible comes from these situations, but very occasionally your suggestion might be off-piste, your answer wrong and your joke unfunny.  We take the risk because we’ve calculated that the chance of a negative outcome is pretty small.  That’s brilliant, but we only got there by doing the research: the school kid gets cleverer by being brave enough to put their hand up and give answers every day.  The funny person discovers that they can make people laugh by making those quips or comments whenever they come to mind, and getting a good response.  We reduce risks all the way through life by playing to win from an early age, and learning from the situation when we lose.

As we get older, the chances that we take are much bigger: job applications, going travelling, proposing to someone, getting a mortgage.  Sometimes these are terrifying, but the principal of confidence still applies: we go for these things because we know, deep down, that we can do this.  There is always the possibility of defeat, but we are also very sure that success is obtainable, if not certain.  We take a chance because the chance is there to take.

It’s important to jump at opportunities because it builds up your confidence to tackle those same risks over and over, and build up your odds of winning: it’s the same as raising your hand in a classroom.  Doing it over and over again will make you wiser and more capable of dealing with wrong answers.  (As someone who is friends with a lot of teachers, I realise that it might also drive your educators mad, but you need to learn as much as possible.  Also, this is mainly a metaphor.)

Take a chance on something this weekend. It doesn’t matter how small or large it is: see that film you’re not too sure about or declare your love to someone; book a plane ticket to a faraway place or read a different newspaper.  It’s up to you.  But your weekend is so much more likely to be awesome (or at least memorable) if you use it to do something new.

Enjoy your Friday!