If you want to love others and be loved, sometimes people are going to have problems, and you’re the one they’ll come to. These are delicate moments where you can either become a support system or change the course of your relationship for the worse.
What NOT to do:
Many people do not realize that they are doing these things, but they are very noticeable to the person in need, and often send the message of “I don’t care.”
1. Talk about your own problems.
For example, if your friend’s mother was just diagnosed with cancer, this is not the time to tell them about your mother’s diabetes. When someone comes to you with a problem, there is any number of things they are looking for from you, but the #1 thing they are not looking for is your fucking problems.
2. Say “yeah” a bunch while they are talking.
Have you ever watched a disingenuous person listen to someone spill their guts? It looks a lot like this:
The other day —
I was going —
To the —
Movies, and my car —
Yeah, your car, mhm
I don’t know what Tony Robbins wannabe self-help book you read that told you saying “yeah” while someone else is talking and nodding your head a lot makes you seem genuine, but it doesn’t.
It makes you seem like a sociopath practicing a good cry in the mirror before their mother’s funeral. Knock it off.
3. Say “If I were you…”
If you do this then congratulations, nothing bad has happened to you ever.
You blessed soul.
But for those who have had a traumatic event, a heart-crushing, and life-altering experience, telling them what YOU would have done, is just about the worst way to handle it.
I had a friend who was robbed at knifepoint, tied up and held for hours. It was terrible, but what he remembers most about that experience was, and I’m quoting:
“All the fuckers coming to me afterward telling me what they would have done other than piss their pants.”
4. Push for details.
This isn’t Keeping up with the Kardashians. If you’re getting your drama-rocks off of someone else’s problems, you need to re-evaluate your priorities. People will talk when they’re ready and say what they feel like they need to say as it comes to them.
5. Act like a psychologist.
If you read some sofa-psychology book that says people NEED to talk about some aspect of their problem, and you’re coaxing them to do that, you’re not being a friend. If your friend wanted a psychologist or wanted to be analyzed, there are people who do that for a living.
6. Feed their addictions.
I am often guilty of this one. When someone comes to me with a problem I am the first one to say, “let’s get a drink.” Not because I think that person needs a drink, but because I don’t feel comfortable listening without one. Sometimes that is what they want and they’ll likely say it if that is the case. If not, I’ve heard through the grapevine that water is good for you.
7. Do something else while their talking.
This is rude in any conversation. Instagram is not going anywhere. If you don’t clip your nails at this moment, they will not explode.
If someone is trusting you with their vulnerability, you can show the courtesy of listening with your full attention. Or, don’t have friends. I hear Antarctica is beautiful this time of year and Penguins are notoriously patient with your bullshit.
8. Give advice early.
This is a common mistake. People hear 45% of a problem and voila, the answer is revealed.
The problem with this:
a. If someone wants to talk, that doesn’t mean they are looking for advice.
b. If you are waiting with a piece of advice, you aren’t listening to the rest of the problem.
c. Giving advice is obviously more important to you than giving the right advice.
Sometimes this happens because having someone come to you for advice is putting you in a position of power, and some people love power. There are people that seek out the pain in others so that they can bully them with their advice and feel the power of “fixing” someone’s problems.
These people are Dementors. They are succubi. Run.
In essence, “what not to do” can be boiled down into a simple mantra to say to yourself:
“This is not about me.”
What to do:
This is the easy part.
For what to do when someone comes to you with their problems is a simple formula:
Listen + be honest + shush = success.
Also, a hug never hurt anyone.