Let’s discuss briefly the difference between “convenient” and “inconvenient,” and how being treated as either can be interpreted. This topic came up when a friend of mine said that he often felt as if he only received attention from certain people in his life when it was convenient for them. My over-analytical brain chewed on that and wondered, if people only paid attention to him when it was convenient for them, was he an inconvenience the rest of the time?
By definition, convenient means: suitable or agreeable to the needs or purpose; well-suited with respect to facility or ease in use; favorable, easy, or comfortable for use.
The opposite of that, inconvenient means: not easily accessible or at hand; inopportune; untimely; not suiting one’s needs or purposes.
For our purposes here, I’d like to focus on one aspect of each definition – that pertaining to suitability of needs or purposes. If you are a convenience – that is to say, you only hear from someone or get attention from someone when it is convenient from them – then, according to that definition, those are the times when you suit their needs or are suitable for their purposes. The rest of the time? You apparently don’t suit their needs or aren’t suitable for their purposes, which would make you, by definition, inconvenient.
Keep all that in mind as we discuss a different topic and then I’ll wind them together near the end. We hear much about “millennials,” Gen Y, Gen Z and others. I have children that would be labeled millennials and one that would be considered Gen Z. It is sometimes difficult to understand how self-directed these generations are as compared to the older generations in how we relate to other people, manage stress, etc. One thing that I’ve observed that seems beneficial for these younger generations though, is that they aren’t shy about identifying “toxic relationships” or “toxic friendships” in their lives and removing them without hesitation. For some, in the older generations, such actions can seem selfish or lacking in understanding, and while that may be true, it’s also true that such a realistic outlook saves a lot of drama and stress for the younger generations.
I would submit to you that we all have those people in our lives to whom we are merely a convenience. We hear from them only when they need something or when they’re bored or at any other time we “suit their needs or are suitable to their purpose.” If they only contact or otherwise interact with us when it’s convenient… when WE are convenient, then the rest of the time we’re an inconvenience. And I further submit to you that if you have “friends” to whom you are an inconvenience… then they aren’t really friends. Those would be the “toxic” friends to be identified and removed from your life; from your day; from your concern.
That is something the younger generations are far better at doing than those of us over… say… 35. And it’s not always easy to excise someone to whom you are an inconvenience. Sometimes we get into friendships or relationships that last for years before things change (or the people involved do) and the toxicity of inconvenience arises. After we’ve had someone in our lives for years it’s difficult at best to simply excise someone from your life; to remove them from your day; to simply quit caring.
That said, we also have to recognize that it’s also possible to have friendships where you don’t speak for weeks or months (or even years) at a time, but neither friend feels neglected, ignored or treated as a convenience. The difference is that neither friend in that scenario feels neglected, ignored, or treated as a convenience.
Perhaps there’s something we can learn from the younger generations… Don’t be anyone’s convenience and don’t treat anyone as yours.