Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?

Having been both a member and a leader of various professional associations, masterminds and support groups over the years, there’s one source of tension that always seems to bubble up.

The dissimilarity of member commitment.

And it’s funny how it plays out.

First, we get frustrated and even offended when other people’s priorities aren’t the same as ours. It feels like an affront to our value system.

Second, questions run through our heads like. Why isn’t their attendance more consistent? Why aren’t they showing up on time? Why are they checking their phone during the meeting instead of connecting and contributing? These folks desperately need some upside down ankle shaking.

These questions and the feelings behind them are perfectly valid. It’s natural to feel upset at their behavior.

But before blowing our conch shell and calling for the group tribunal to cast judgment on the offending party, we should explore the question behind the question. Because what we’re really wondering is:

Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?

That’s what this is about. We’re pissed because they’re not just like us. And that’s a failure of empathy. Because as important as accountability is, and as helpful as it can be to challenge people to be better, ultimately, it’s not our job to figure out why someone is not as devoted as we are.

Our only job to love them.

Particularly with extracurricular and volunteer organizations. Nobody has to be there. And shaming them for being inconsistent isn’t going persuade them to change the behavior.

Truth is, this gap in mattering isn’t a problem for us to solve, it’s a reality for us to accept. Sometimes people simply have a different level of commitment than we do. And that’s okay. Despite our best efforts to motivate and encourage others, despite our desire to remake them in our own image, and despite our compulsion to project our own autobiography onto them, people are going to do what they’re going to do.

Reminds me of a member of my local trade association during my year as president. Jerry was brilliant, friendly, experienced and brought massive value to our chapter. He even invited me over for dinner one night to meet his lovely family and talk about how we could improve our organization.

Naturally, the narration inside my head was, wow, what a catch, this dude is gonna be our savior, he’s exactly what this group needs.

But unfortunately, to quote the popular dating mantra, he just wasn’t that into us. Jerry had other commitments and priorities that took precedent over our organization.

Ultimately, the best we could do for him was love him when he showed up, share our appreciation for his presence, and tell him that if ever he wants to come back, we’ll be here with open arms.

How do you react when you see something isn’t as important to them as it is to you?


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