Stop Keeping Score if You Really Want to Win
This topic comes up in my counselling sessions quite frequently and it was during one of these appointments that a very freeing and inspiring thought came to me. I now give the following advice as often as I can: Please stop keeping score in relationships.
It’s commonplace to track what we do for others in comparison to what they do for us; we use the imaginary scoreboard in our heads, as proof of our own worth. Tallying up the actions and shortcomings of others occupies too much space in our thoughts; the scoreboard fuels arguments creates distance in relationships and keeps us from the joy of doing things simply because we want to.
Let’s say, for instance, you are the person who always initiates the plans with a friend, you may find yourself getting irritated that you always have to be the one to get the ball rolling. If you discussed this annoying fact with others, most people would be quick to back up your frustrations, and yet I feel compelled to challenge your way of thinking for just a minute.
If your friend is genuinely happy when you call and enthusiastically accepts your invitations when you reach out, then wouldn’t it be better for you to focus your energy on the enjoyment you get from your friendship and the memories you’re making, rather than getting caught up in who reached out to who first?
The older I get the more I realize that not all of us are great at reaching out. Some people are amazing at making consistent phone calls, sending cards, planning outings, dropping off little gifts etc. As nice as it would be if everyone had a knack for nurturing relationships, it isn’t fair to assume that a person doesn’t value the relationship, simply because he or she is lacking in the communication department. We aren’t in the minds of others; we don’t know how many times they’ve thought of reaching out and then got sidetracked. We don’t know how overwhelmed others are by the load they’re carrying. We don’t know if people struggle with texting or making phone calls and as a result feel guilty and embarrassed about their shortcomings.
If you really think about it, does it really matter who calls who? If the phone call or text leads to time spent together and you both enjoy it, isn’t that what matters? Keeping score in relationships keeps the focus on what others are doing and not doing instead of focusing on what is really important.
How different would friendships, and marriages be if more people threw away the scoreboard and simply reached out and did nice things without expecting everything to be even all the time?
If you want to call someone, call them. If you want to do something nice for your spouse, do it. If you want to send a letter, send it. Don’t worry about who did what last. Be the person who reaches out and makes things happen; the world needs more people like you. If you pay too close attention to the scoreboard, you may decide to dig your heels in and stop reaching out, and when that happens, the opportunity for new memories to be made, and everyone loses.