When I was growing up there was a girl in my school, who when asked “How are you?”, without fail, would go into a litany of ailments and pet deaths and at home drama that would leave you speechless. It’s from that experience, I learned to really not tell folks how I’m really feeling when they ask that question. Because most aren’t really wanting to know the answer.
I think most people operate on the premise of: “I’m up to my eyeballs in “stuff”, but I need to carry this burden alone because no one wants to hear my sob story. Plus, they have it all together, and I don’t want anyone to know that I have my stuff strewn from here to Topeka.”
Sound about right?
Now I will agree that out of the 5 bjillion times that someone asks you in a week “How are you?” they are truly being polite. And many times it’s said in passing. That is the beginning, middle and end of the conversation. You give them a “Great! How about you?” regardless if it’s true or not, and you are on your way.
But for everyone else that you have a true conversation with. One that might start with “How are you?” but then continues on past the niceties, you can start to get hints on what is really going on in their lives. They open a few doors quickly enough for you to peek in and you start to relate to where they are coming from. Now at this point you have two choices–you could high tale it out off there, or you can show a couple of your own cards.
We live in a world of curated lives–only presenting our best face to the public. But let’s be honest, we all have the “stuff”–we are of the age where we are dealing with aging parents, aching bodies, perplexing children, inabilities to keep up with household responsibilities–you get the picture.
So I think sharing is caring.
Being open with our friends and those that you are in a meaningful conversation with, is an act of true friendship. It gives us an opportunity to share resources, experiences, and if nothing else, helps us realize that we aren’t on an island by ourselves. We need to let our friends know its okay for them to share, and on the flip side, we need to know that we are not alone.
For example, I recently read a statistic that 80% of children will be diagnosed with some type of anxiety disorder by the time they are 18. That’s a big number and that’s those that actually seek out help. So could we venture to say all children suffer from some time of anxiety? So everyone should be talking about how it presents in their own children–right?? But it still seems like talking about mental illness and potential intervention for it is a big taboo!
I think folks feel like they will be looked upon as a bad parent if their child is having difficulties. They don’t want their child to be looked at differently then others. They think that if they wait long enough they will likely grow out of it. But I know in our case, age hasn’t made a big difference!
But we are all in the same boat. Let’s acknowledge it, support each other there, and then take that boat on a cruise to Bermuda!
Now there are other times when you can tell that the other person just needs to be heard, they need that soft place to land, they need to get something off their chest, they just don’t want to carry it alone any more, but they aren’t wanting you to try and fix their problem. Its then that listening is often the only thing needed to help someone. Sounds simple, but harder in practice.
So the next five people that you meet…as you greet them, ask them only a question you truly want the answer to. And in their answer, find where you share common ground.
Because sharing is caring!