Are You Responsible for the Happiness of Others?

I regularly see posts on social media with the general message “If you have the ability to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more happiness.” My first instinct is to agree. Indeed, the world does need more happiness. Then it gives me pause. Wait, no one has the power to make anyone else anything. And repeatedly trying to make someone happy who is determined to be unhappy is doomed to be exhausting and even abusive. Now I’m confused, I don’t think the world needs more happiness? Here’s how I see it:

Yes we should be kind. If you see someone drop their list in a warehouse store, pick it up and give it back to them. If a coworker has a bad day, pitch in. If you see a scared, lost kid, help them. Be fair. Be honest. Be compassionate.  If you can do something that costs you little and helps a lot, do it.

With that said, don’t give yourself away:

Protect yourself from energy vampires. You know the type. They will take and take and take until you are sucked dry. When I was in high school there was a girl who had a sob story almost every day about why she needed money. The first day I gave her some (even though I grew up very poor). Later I heard her telling some other girls what a patsy I was. The next time she asked me for money, I told her to get a job. If every time you speak to someone their life/job/relationship is awful and they need something from you, you will never make them happy. Stop trying.

Forgive a mistake - only once. I know that sounds harsh. Hear me out. Even those of us with the best of intentions do thoughtless things. Saying “I’m sorry” means you understand what you did was hurtful and you won’t do it again. Making the same mistake over and over and expecting forgiveness is abusive. Battered partners go back to an abusive relationship because they are forgiving, trying to make someone else happy and/or are afraid they won’t find anyone else. Going back to an abusive boss is very similar.

Look for balance. When we are trying to make a good impression it is easy to get caught up in trying to make someone happy and allowing ourselves to be steamrolled.  “It would be really great if you could stay and finish this report for me.” “I would be so thankful if you would come in just an hour or two early to help me on this project.” But then, “I’m really sorry. I can’t work through lunch with you today. I have (insert excuse).” If you are giving more than you’re being given you aren’t making someone happy. You’re being taken advantage of.

Remember who you are. What shoes you wear. How you do your hair. What music you listen to. Wearing glasses instead of contacts. What time you come to work. What time you leave work.  How much time you have for your friends. How often you go out with the gang from work. What your work/life balance looks like. Etc, etc, etc.  Individually many things are small conversations and compromises you willing make for the team. If you wake up one day and realize you no longer recognize yourself, you’ve given away too much.

You can only offer people the opportunity to choose to be happy while not purposefully contributing to their unhappiness. If they choose to be happy – great! If they choose not to be – totally not your issue!

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer.  As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills.  She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time.  To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, email her at or call 302-307-3091.

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