Be The First

by Paul Goodchild on July 3, 2016

Post image for Be The First

I’ll be the first to admit I suffer from fear of rejection. Most of us do, if we’re honest.

It’s played a significant role throughout my life. There are many times where it gets superseded, but more often than not it’s there, lurking beneath the surface of many decisions I make.

“Be The First” came up in a podcast I was listening to recently. It refers to the principle of being the first to initiate in human interactions and relationships.

They offer simple examples, such as, be the first to…

  • smile at a stranger
  • say ‘hi’ to the barista in the morning.
  • call a friend
  • offer help

I’ve been reactionary when it comes to any human relationships for a long time.

As we all know, seemingly small events early in our lives can shape us in enormous ways for the rest of it. One such event that I’ve written about before was when a close friend told me to “leave her alone” because I was just “annoying” her – I literally annoyed her with my presence.

I’ve always pulled back from friendships ever since. I never give too much too soon. Instead, I gauge where they’re at, and (re)act accordingly. This ensures they don’t get more “friendship” than they want or need, and protects me from getting hurt.

Win, right?! Not quite.

What does being first mean?

Since hearing this line, I’m consciously trying to be aware of times where I wait to respond, instead of initiate. Turns out I do it all the time.

Responding is safe. You can’t go wrong. When a friend is intimate by sharing something with you, now you can do it too.

There are no awkward “too much information” moments. There’s no vulnerability.

This is complete bullshit and it’s getting me nowhere.

Here’s an example where I tried a new “be first” approach (if a little rough around the edges) …

Last week I matched with a girl on Tinder. I met her once, it was cool, and I thought perhaps I’ll see her again. We were chatting back and forth, and there was a particular innuendo being used throughout the conversation. So I decided to switch it up a little and spoke with a little less ‘ambiguity’. She was aghast; said it was “creepy”.

The difference here was that I didn’t wait to react to her comfort level… I went “first”.

She didn’t like it.

I could look at this as “rejection”, but I’m putting it down to “filtering”. I’m comfortable with talking the way I did, and if she’s not, and prefers to be oblique and take offence otherwise, then we’re simply not compatible.

Another example…

Last week I was in a coffee shop. There was a pianist there playing live and singing. Absolutely fantastic music and right up my street. Normally I wouldn’t bother saying anything, but I decided that I just had to… I wanted to buy a CD from her in-fact. So I went up, told her I loved the music, and that I’d buy a CD from her there and then if she had them.

What’s my point? There’s not much scope for rejection here, but the principle is the same. Engage in an authentic way with another human being, recognise their awesomeness, and at the least give them a compliment where it’s due.  I actually asked her whether anyone else comments on her music here or looks to buy CDs from her.  No.  No-one else has said anything.
I couldn’t believe it.

If you want to listen to just 1 example of her playing, here is it:

How can you be first?

There are 3 things to consider when you’re the “first”:

  • Just be authentic and come from a good place
  • Don’t think too much about the consequences.
  • Recognise that you’re not in control of their (re)actions only your own

To get better at this, I’m trying to switch off my over-thinking engine. It rarely stops, but I’m muting it where I can.

I know if I’m authentic, coming from a good place and with good intentions, then I’m off to a great start. I have to then not worry so much about the consequences of what I do. 99% of things that happen in our lives don’t matter… they’re all forgotten in a day or so, if not sooner. What’s the worst that can happen?

And remember: you’re only in control of what you do and say, not of how other people respond to you. You could smile and say hi when you walk in your office each morning, and no-one else does it… that’s their issue. You loose nothing, you feel good, and anything nice that comes back from other people is a bonus.

Take my Tinder match from earlier. Perhaps most people I talk like that to will think that I’m entirely inappropriate. I’m okay with that… because I know that I’ll align with the person that reacts to me in a positive way, and who understands my humour and way of thinking. Anything less than that is a waste of everyone’s time.

I think that being first comes from a place of high self-worth, and that practising being first will actually grow your self-worth.

You can’t lose when you’re first.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

LynnW July 10, 2016 at 18:30

Hi Paul,
Several things you speak of hit home for me, too.

Years ago, I was visiting with my best friend from college a couple of years after we graduated. At the time, I was going through a difficult stage in my marriage and at one point in my stay, she said, “You are an emotional drain.” That memory still impacts me today, both in how my body and heart feel (tense, sinking) and how I think about myself (“just shut up”). I have learned to keep a good many of my struggles to myself, letting them out only to paid counselors (made more difficult without health insurance).

And yet, I can appreciate that she spoke her truth, ridding her life of someone who drains her, who doesn’t add to her life. We are not all compatible; how boring a life would that be! It was my reaction to her words, which continues in the same way today because my memory of my reaction is how I repeat the story. [and after writing this, I watched Rachel’s video of her song, Jealous, above, and wow, what a thoughtful and beautiful way to express part of the pain of rejection!]

What I mean by that is parallel to this story: When I was a kid, I was so very shy that I succumbed easily to teasing and being left out. When I was about 9, I was walking to the parking lot at summer camp and a girl decided to dance around me singing, “Lynn is a pig-face” over and over. That was a difficult memory until one day when I was about 45, it came up in meditation, and I realized this: that girl was probably hurting emotionally, perhaps very deeply, from something completely unrelated to me, and putting me down was her reaction to her own pain. In that meditation, my brain did something on its own: it imagined me, at age 45, reaching out to her with my hands and meeting her eyes with empathy. The emotional pain and squirming I used to have from that memory disappeared and have not returned. Perhaps I essentially changed the memory: perhaps I have re-routed the braincells that recall that memory. Maybe this is what is meant by “forgiveness” or “letting go”? Perhaps I can heal from my “emotional drain” story/memory in a similar process?

Yes, what people do or say, their actions/reactions are because of what is going on for them; rarely what is done to them. Think of Tibetan monks in reaction to Chinese captors for extreme examples of self-mastery, self-worth and forgiveness.

I read don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, every year to re-center myself on these ideas. Time I read it again.

And, I could relate other stories and thoughts that your post brought up, too. But I’ve gone on enough. (did I say that from self-deprecation or consideration?)

Thank you for sharing your ideas, Paul; speaking from our hearts is perhaps always appropriate?


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