Author Topic: The etiquette of good news / happiness  (Read 3152 times)

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Ceallach

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The etiquette of good news / happiness
« on: December 20, 2012, 05:57:15 PM »
This may sound absurd to some, but over the past few months I've really struggled with how appropriate it is to be "happy" around unhappy people without being rude or inconsiderate.   Basically, DH and I are having a wonderful year.   Everything in life has fallen into place for us.  We both have jobs we love, our finances are in amazing shape, our relationship is strong, we're having a baby, plus lots of other wonderful little things that have happened throughout the year.   It's just strange because I've never been so happy before.   I spent most of my adult life clinically depressed (I had this weird idea that if I built an outwardly happy appearing life it would make me feel happy.... which didn't work.   However I did eventually manage to break free of the black dog and I've been in a really good place for nearly 18 months now).    I don't want to take this happiness for granted because I know that life will deal us more ups and downs over the years, which it certainly has done in the past.   

But what I'm finding is that I sound like a right prat talking about pretty much any topic that comes up - because in all honesty, there's almost nothing negative to say.    And it seems that by contrast, many of the people around me aren't having such a good time of it.

Example 1:   I'm having a baby.   2 of my siblings and several of our friends are struggling with infertility (some in early stages, others nearly giving up after $$$$$ of failed IVF).  It would be odd to completely avoid the baby topic around them, but likewise it seems insensitive to talk about how excited and happy we are that it's worked out for us.    Where's the balance?

Example 2:   I love my job, and have a ridiculously good, supportive boss.   Many of my friends hate their jobs or hate their bosses.   If they're talking about work should I say nothing at all and just let them vent? 

Example 3:  In general, when friends are commiserating about how hard life is, again, should I avoid saying anything about my own life and just let them vent?  A friend called me earlier this week telling me how hard this year has been and how miserable she is, and she can't wait for 2013.  Apart from asking her all about it and expressing my sympathy and hoping her next year is a better one, I kind of felt I couldn't say a single thing to commiserate.  It was kind of a conversation stopper in the end!  Once she'd finished venting there wasn't a lot else I could say without sounding obnoxious.

So I guess my question is this:   how much is it appropriate for me to express my happiness, or what obligation do I have to tone it down?     Surely if somebody says "I hate my job" it's inappropriate to respond with "That's a shame, I love mine!"   ::)   So should I just avoid talking about my own life altogether?  It's not that I want to dominate the conversation, but basically it seems there can be no "give and take" to keep the conversation flowing, as everything I have to say is in stark contrast.    Or is the problem that I'm not hanging out with enough happy people?  (I actually love talking to my boss because she is a very happy person, she's somebody I can be genuinely gleeful around - and she's super excited for me too). 
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curly sue

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2012, 06:28:11 PM »
I can relate to this a bit. My year has been far from perfect but I have a friend who has really gone through the ringer. With her, she will just tell me all of the awful stuff she is going through and then she'll ask me how I am doing. Even if I have bad things too they really pale in comparison. I will talk about what ever thing is happening - good or bad. She is my dear friend so even though her life is bad she is genuinely happy for me when something good is going on for me. And, when things are not so great, but still not as bad as what she is going through, I think she has enough perspective to know that while not as bad as her situation, its still not perfect. I think if I was in your situation, I would still share all of the good in your life but don't go on and on. You are happy and you deserve to be in a happy place. Because as you stated, life won't be rosy every day. And your friends and family should know that. I feel like I'm not saying it very well so I hope someone here can say it better.

DottyG

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2012, 06:31:22 PM »
Quote
I think if I was in your situation, I would still share all of the good in your life but don't go on and on. You are happy and you deserve to be in a happy place. Because as you stated, life won't be rosy every day. And your friends and family should know that. I feel like I'm not saying it very well so I hope someone here can say it better.

Nope.  I think you said it beautifully!  I agree.


Rusty

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2012, 06:41:42 PM »
Congratulations on your happy life.  Its so nice to hear someone is content.   Don't feel you have to apologise, but just silently congratulate yourselves and carry on.  Some people can't bear it when other people have good fortune or are just content with their lives.  I have had a taste of this recently as we were lucky enough to come in to some unexpected money, and while we have not boasted about it or splashed out lavishly, you would not believe how bitter some people can be, putting us down for having such good luck.   The only thing I would say in relation to the question of infertility is that it can be a minefield, you can be sympathetic but why not be joyous about your own pregnancy, its a wonderful time for you.  I know times are tough for some people at present but there are very few people in the world who escape downtimes at least once in their lives.

mj

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2012, 09:08:20 PM »
About #1, there was nothing worse to me than to have someone complain about their pregnancy in front of me.  But being happy about their pregnancy let me be happy too.  Of course, each couple will be different so I think just playing by ear would work the best -- but in my infertility groups, the biggest gripes/hurts used to come from others complaining about their pregnancy. 

Overall though, I've found that the truly happy people don't have to state their happiness.  It comes across in their entire being. 

Ceallach

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2012, 09:42:44 PM »
About #1, there was nothing worse to me than to have someone complain about their pregnancy in front of me.  But being happy about their pregnancy let me be happy too.  Of course, each couple will be different so I think just playing by ear would work the best -- but in my infertility groups, the biggest gripes/hurts used to come from others complaining about their pregnancy. 

Overall though, I've found that the truly happy people don't have to state their happiness.  It comes across in their entire being. 

That's very true - it's certainly not a case of me wanting to go around saying "I'm soooo happy! My life is sooo awesome!".       It just kind of comes across.    e.g. I look back at what I've said in a particular conversation and realise it's all really really positive things.   If people ask me casually about work, I only have exciting things to say, and if I know they're in a negative place it's hard to know how much I should tone it down and just say "Oh yeah it's going well" and redirect the conversation. 

Re the pregnancy complaints, it's actually a pet peeve of mine when people complain about their pregnancy or about their children.   I understand commiserating / sharing issues with those who can relate, but I really dislike negativity about life choices.  (I feel the same way about people who constantly complain about their spouse or say nasty things about them - it just seems so horrible unless it's a constructive conversation designed to help fix a specific problem!).   So I don't think I'm guilty of that.   On occasion when I've commented to DH about a particular unexpected pregnancy ailment he comments "But you wanted a baby!"  and that's really what it comes down to in the end.   I would never ever complain to my siblings about pregnancy being hard, when I know how much their spouses want to be pregnant.  My SIL cried when she found out I was pregnant, but I know that she is truly happy for me.  She's just unhappy for herself.   
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Drawberry

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2012, 10:12:41 PM »
Congratulations on having a wonderful year!

In terms of when to share your happiness and when to let others have their time I personally feel that when someone is sharing something negative in their lives they aren't exactly in a mood for you to follow up with tales about how super great everything is for you. I am not quite sure I can word this quite right..

For example if your friend is clearly feeling low about their unsuccessful tries at pregnancy and has been discussing such with you over lunch it may not be the appropriate time to follow up with how wonderful your own pregnancy is going. It might come across as you being dismissive of their issues and 'trumping' them with your own good news.

Perhaps after that discussion on their end is over and your friends/family are in a more comfortable place you could bring up how your own pregnancy is going or perhaps that lunch date just isn't the time to discuss your own pregnancy if your friend is clearly very upset by her struggles.

I hope this makes sense.. :-[

In short I suppose that following up someone else's misery with your own amazingness might not be appropriate for certain situations (such as pregnancy struggles) but that doesn't mean your happiness is an off-limits discussion. Just that being intuitive to how sensitive the topic is to the individual may be important for certain situations.

delabela

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2012, 11:00:18 PM »
Even when things are not going well, I don't begrudge my loved ones their happiness, and I would bet the people you love feel the same.  I'm sure you are sensitive to not appearing to belittle their difficulties, so I wouldn't worry about it.  I haven't had the best year, and I appreciate both that I can complain to my friends and hear their good news and celebrate with them. 

I think sometimes unhappy situations invite more discussion because of the search for ways to change the situation, so it may seem like your happy situation gets short shrift. 

Hmmmmm

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2012, 11:09:20 PM »
POD to above.

There is a big difference between a person who is bragging and one who is sharing their joy and not complaining.  Yes, let your friends bend your ear with their problems and when they ask how are you an honest "things are really good right now" is perfectly acceptable and gives them a chance to question you and spend some time hearing some positive news. 


AngelicGamer

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2012, 11:26:42 PM »
OP, I just watched the first Sex in the City movie and your opening post reminded me of Charlotte.  Basically, without spoilers, her life is very happy and loving while the other characters are having problems and their lives are unhappy.  I think that maybe you might want to be a bit like her - she would just say a couple sentences about her being happy but then let her friends vent.  It might end a conversation / vent session, so you might want to go last, but then you can move onto a different subject.




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Ceallach

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2012, 04:00:24 AM »
OP, I just watched the first Sex in the City movie and your opening post reminded me of Charlotte.  Basically, without spoilers, her life is very happy and loving while the other characters are having problems and their lives are unhappy.  I think that maybe you might want to be a bit like her - she would just say a couple sentences about her being happy but then let her friends vent.  It might end a conversation / vent session, so you might want to go last, but then you can move onto a different subject.

That's a good comparison!  I'd forgotten about that.  It was one thing I liked about the movie - it would have been a bit much if they were all still commiserating constantly, so it was nice to see one character happy and settled!    That's a good suggestion. 
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Iris

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2012, 04:41:59 AM »
About #1, there was nothing worse to me than to have someone complain about their pregnancy in front of me.  But being happy about their pregnancy let me be happy too.  Of course, each couple will be different so I think just playing by ear would work the best -- but in my infertility groups, the biggest gripes/hurts used to come from others complaining about their pregnancy. 

Overall though, I've found that the truly happy people don't have to state their happiness.  It comes across in their entire being. 

That's very true - it's certainly not a case of me wanting to go around saying "I'm soooo happy! My life is sooo awesome!".       It just kind of comes across.    e.g. I look back at what I've said in a particular conversation and realise it's all really really positive things.   If people ask me casually about work, I only have exciting things to say, and if I know they're in a negative place it's hard to know how much I should tone it down and just say "Oh yeah it's going well" and redirect the conversation. 

Re the pregnancy complaints, it's actually a pet peeve of mine when people complain about their pregnancy or about their children.   I understand commiserating / sharing issues with those who can relate, but I really dislike negativity about life choices.  (I feel the same way about people who constantly complain about their spouse or say nasty things about them - it just seems so horrible unless it's a constructive conversation designed to help fix a specific problem!).   So I don't think I'm guilty of that.   On occasion when I've commented to DH about a particular unexpected pregnancy ailment he comments "But you wanted a baby!"  and that's really what it comes down to in the end.   I would never ever complain to my siblings about pregnancy being hard, when I know how much their spouses want to be pregnant.  My SIL cried when she found out I was pregnant, but I know that she is truly happy for me.  She's just unhappy for herself.

I think that's a bit much. I chose to have children, sure, but to expect me to be ecstatically happy about every single aspect of child raising all the time is unrealistic at best. Women choose to be pregnant, but if they throw up every day for three months they are entitled to not like that and frankly if I mentioned that fact to my husband and the only sympathy he could muster was "Well, you wanted a child" I'd be pretty ticked off.

I also chose my career, but I don't think it's unreasonable to have a bad day at work and want to unload. All life choices, even ones that you are very happy with, have occasional downsides.

On the original topic - be happy, enjoy it, and if others can't handle it that's their problem. Within normal conversational bounds there is nothing wrong with expressing happiness. I discuss my happy relationship with my single friends when it is a natural part of the conversation and there's never been any problem.
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TootsNYC

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2012, 11:07:29 AM »
... Women choose to be pregnant...

Actually, they don't always choose this. And how far have we come in the last century that people believe this now?

*Not* getting pregnant is the choice; "using birth control" is the path that requires (and required, in terms of developing it) active intervention. Potential pregnancy is the biological "default setting."

mj

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2012, 11:14:43 AM »
About #1, there was nothing worse to me than to have someone complain about their pregnancy in front of me.  But being happy about their pregnancy let me be happy too.  Of course, each couple will be different so I think just playing by ear would work the best -- but in my infertility groups, the biggest gripes/hurts used to come from others complaining about their pregnancy. 

Overall though, I've found that the truly happy people don't have to state their happiness.  It comes across in their entire being. 

That's very true - it's certainly not a case of me wanting to go around saying "I'm soooo happy! My life is sooo awesome!".       It just kind of comes across.    e.g. I look back at what I've said in a particular conversation and realise it's all really really positive things.   If people ask me casually about work, I only have exciting things to say, and if I know they're in a negative place it's hard to know how much I should tone it down and just say "Oh yeah it's going well" and redirect the conversation. 

Re the pregnancy complaints, it's actually a pet peeve of mine when people complain about their pregnancy or about their children.   I understand commiserating / sharing issues with those who can relate, but I really dislike negativity about life choices.  (I feel the same way about people who constantly complain about their spouse or say nasty things about them - it just seems so horrible unless it's a constructive conversation designed to help fix a specific problem!).   So I don't think I'm guilty of that.   On occasion when I've commented to DH about a particular unexpected pregnancy ailment he comments "But you wanted a baby!"  and that's really what it comes down to in the end.   I would never ever complain to my siblings about pregnancy being hard, when I know how much their spouses want to be pregnant.  My SIL cried when she found out I was pregnant, but I know that she is truly happy for me.  She's just unhappy for herself.

I think that's a bit much. I chose to have children, sure, but to expect me to be ecstatically happy about every single aspect of child raising all the time is unrealistic at best. Women choose to be pregnant, but if they throw up every day for three months they are entitled to not like that and frankly if I mentioned that fact to my husband and the only sympathy he could muster was "Well, you wanted a child" I'd be pretty ticked off.

I also chose my career, but I don't think it's unreasonable to have a bad day at work and want to unload. All life choices, even ones that you are very happy with, have occasional downsides.



Unloading on an infertile or unemployed person isn't a right and likely to hurt feelings.  There are other people who can and should fulfill that role for those who need it.

Elisabunny

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Re: The etiquette of good news / happiness
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2012, 11:50:11 AM »
Perhaps with the job, you could compare it to a previous job you didn't like?  "Oh, work is still going well.  I am SO grateful, especially after the time I spent at Kicks Puppies Co.  Did I ever tell you about the time..."  Your happy circumstances may be easier to handle if they remember that you didn't always have it so good.
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