If you are one of my Facebook friends you will have seen a status updated I posted on Saturday asking why strangers seem to take one look at me and spill their guts to me (and tell me their life story).
I had had the most surreal conversation with a total stranger. I am not going to tell you what was discussed. However, I will tell you two things about it.
The first one being - I get the general idea that if the other person had been in slightly different circumstances they would probably not have told me half of what they did. (The half which I doubt they would have told me under different circumstances included the parts which actually scared the living daylights out of me.) They also paid me a slightly backhanded compliment by saying "I have told you more than I told my Psychologist".
Those of you who know me will know that I do not judge until I know the full story. I will give my opinion if I am asked for it. However, if you talk to me expecting to get unsolicited advice, go and find someone else to talk to.
A friend of mine knows me well enough to realise that if I say "Hmm" it means that I am thinking and they will possibly receive an update to my thoughts in the very near future (they will usually have to ask for it first though).
There are times when the best way to help people is just be a "Sounding Board" for them. Do not judge them or tell tehm how you would do things if you were them - just let them talk it out and let them know you are there for them.
I was talking to another friend of mine who I managed to totally either shock or confuse when I said that they were correct about something but they were wrong about my reasons for it.
Put it this way - if I decide to initiate a conversation with you without us never having met before (unless I know there is a very high chance of you having some information I need - or you have an unusual accent) - the chances are you do not exactly look like the friendliest person on the planet (and that is usually something of an understatement). Experience tells me that the friendly looking humans are the most dangerous humans to approach. The apparent friendliness can hide a very nasty sting in the tail.
You can learn a lot just by sitting quietly whilst someone talks to you. Subjects I have found myself being educated about just by following that advice include Mental Health and Drug Addiction (subsection "Heroin").
There is something which I have learned - if you do not judge people on first appearances they are less likely to judge you on the same criteria.
A very dear friend of mine found out that we have got more in common with each other than I have with most of my other friends. They are a big supporter of this blog so I am not going to break their confidence - but we now have a bit of a mutual Appreciation Society going on. I am so proud of them and they know why.
The way they learned so much about me was by me not trying the "Been There, Done That, Got The Tshirt" approach when they opened up to me. Instead - I listened to them and occassionally told them a little of my story to show I understood more than they realised.
I may either come across as a total loudmouth or someone who is cold, defensive, and difficult to reach, when you first meet me. However, if you persevere long enough to get to know me, I have been told I am one of the nicest friends you can have.
There is one question which comes up in job interviews which I really hate. It is the one where the interviewer asks "If I asked your friends to describe you - what do you think they would say?".
(If there wasn't the small matter of something called the "Data Protection Act" - and if I was the kind of person to give out the personal details of my friends - I would be very tempted to hand the interviewer my mobile phone and tell them to pick a friend and ask them themself.)
I can only tell you how I treat my friends.
I am loyal, I will go out of my way to help a friend who is in need if I can (and if they are prepared to help themself as well), I am respectful of their privacy, I am caring (put it this way - I get upset when my friends are upset), I will defend them until they prove me wrong (in which case - I suggest they are very careful indeed). I also love doing things to surprise my closest friends - it might be sending a card with a personal message when they are feeling down. There is one way of finding out how close a friend I consider you to be - if I am totally (bluntly - to the point of saying exactly what I am thinking when I think it) honest without feeling like I have to ask your permission first - your next stage would be to actually attempt to get yourself adopted as a member of my family (either that or adopt me yourself).
Remember - never judge people unless you know the whole story. Your judgements could get you into a world of trouble.
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