“Hi! How are you” is really just “Hello.” It is just a ritual greeting. More of a social grunt really. It is not a query for the truth. We want people to tell us they are “fine” so that there is no additional burden on our lives. We want to hear that they are “fine” so that we are not remiss in our friendships. When someone does respond with “Oh my Gosh, I’m so stressed” we immediately empathize with “Me too!” because it is inevitably true. This response closes the door for that person to tell their truth. Most of us think of a visit with friends as an opportunity to talk about ourselves. We want to vent and be heard. It’s understandable.
February is the anniversary of my best friend’s suicide. This is of course a sensitive subject for those who loved him. Anyone who has lost someone to suicide hopefully knows that you can’t change someone’s mind if they are determined, or unwell enough, to make this choice. We do, however, experience survivor’s guilt wishing we had more influence over our loved one’s happiness. There are lessons to be learned by acknowledging this anniversary.
Whether you have lost someone to illness, social disconnection, or the circle of life I ask you to consider the following:
It is so easy to get caught up in our busy schedules and have only superficial contact with the people we care about. If we only connect a few times a year it is unlikely that we will disclose the deep troubles we all experience. Even if we have regular contact with people we rarely exercise due diligence in terms of checking on the truth of our friends’ existence.
I consider “Friend” and “Love” verbs. We all have personal definitions of these words but they both come down to the truth of our relationships. We must take into consideration of course that each relationship has different levels of intimacy. We share to different degrees at different stages of our friendships. Sometimes it’s about you and sometimes it’s about me.
What can I do? Do you want to talk about it? Has this been going on for a long time? Do you see a solution in the near future? Do you have a support system for this problem? Can I help you find some support? Do you know I’m here for you? These are a few of the phrases I try to incorporate into my friend language. You can make up your own.
I hope that 2011 will see you active in your friends’ and families’ lives seeking their truth so no one feels alone. Pick up the phone rather than emailing. Write a card or letter so that their mail box has more than bills. Please don’t wait for birthdays and holidays to seek the truth about your friends. Make correspondence a ritual while you do your laundry or something.
I’m attaching a PDF below on Effective Listening Skills. These can change your life experience and perhaps change the lives of those around you. We never truly know the impact we have on others; but the truth is out there.