I want to share with you something I have been guilty of in the past, and something which may be beneficial to you in your relationships with those you care about.
Have you ever tried really hard to listen and be there for a friend when they are in a time of need? How nice of you! Friends like you are hard to come by- the ones who listen, can be trusted, and give their advice.
Have you ever told a friend,” I know exactly what you’re going through” to help ease the pain and help them to feel supported? I bet you have , and so have I…Many times. However, something I have learned through social work is to never say those words.
Why you ask?… Because it’s not true!!!!
Here’s an example- Let’s say both of us were dumped by our significant other, Johnny, unexpectedly. How great that we can be there for one another. However, we truly do not know what each other is going through. For starters, we process emotions and situations differently. I, for instance, like to stay in denial and distract myself from thinking about it (stupid, I know). But you may not be able to stop talking about it to the point of exhausting all of your friendships; people do not want to hear again that Johnny wrote on Sarah’s Facebook wall and you don’t know what to do about it! For the tenth time….Nothing, there is nothing you can do.
This one aspect alone makes a huge difference in what we are going through.
Also, what happened in the situation is different. Johnny did not dump you and I the same way or for the same reason. So saying “I know exactly what you’re going through” really isn’t the case. Telling someone “I am so sorry for what you are going through, it must make you feel ________” (fill in the blank) is much more comforting and supportive.
This whole concept may not seem like a big deal, and often times it isn’t. However, in my line of work the way you word things is crucial to your relationships with clients. Sometimes I only get one chance, if that, to connect with people. And yes, sometimes by saying something that minuscule can be a deal breaker. Talk about pressure, huh?!
Think about how many times the people I may work with have felt rejected, unheard, not understood in numerous situations they’ve been in. Constantly! Sometimes it’s more important just to listen and be there for them, not provide our words of encouragement, as sometimes that isn’t what they want. Ask the people you work with or are supporting what it is they want from you. Early on, they may deny wanting the help or truly don’t know what they want from you yet. That’s okay! Just be there. Sometimes being consistently in someone’s life and able to listen to them is enough. We don’t always need to think of something to say to make it all better- that doesn’t always work. It is up to that person to make changes to better themselves, and by you being there to help and support them is a bonus!
What helps me in these situations is to think about the word inspire. I want to help inspire that person, not solve their problem for them. The word inspire is really powerful. It means to encourage someone to a greater effort, to use enthusiasm in your interactions with others, and to be creative. To inspire someone is to help awaken a feeling in someone, and help them to become more insightful and aware of their own emotions and their own possibilities. People want to be inspired, some of them just don’t know it yet 🙂 And that is what you’re there for!
How can you inspire others?