Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you had helped someone the least - only for them to tell you that you had helped them the most???
The identity of the person concerned is irrelevant to this blogpost but - as always - I did get their permission to share my side of a very interesting sequence of events which led them to make the above comment.
I kept hearing about "Emotional Intelligence" but I honestly didn't think I had it - whatever it was supposed to be. I think the sequence of events which led up to tonight's "bombshell" (as Jeremy Clarkson might put it) has actually taught me a big lesson.
There are times when I feel very comfortable just being people's friend and supporting them through whatever difficulties they may face - other times I feel like I am on very thin ice. This is usually when I start to think I need at least one PhD in a subject I had previously known nothing about. Of course, my past experience is not like most people's - and I know how much I hate it when people decide to try to advise me based on their experience.
I will admit that there were times when I was seriously worried about the individual concerned at various points. Not only because of their secret but because they had felt unable to tell the most important people - and I could see it was making the situation worse.
I knew that they obviously trusted me enough to tell me how they felt (as well as the background to the situation) but I honestly wondered if they would trust me enough to let me be there for them at those times when the going got really tough.
If you know me you will know that I will do anything in my power to help my friends - the flip side to that is that I can sometimes say exactly what I think when I think it. This has been something of a lesson in restraint for me.
I am not any kind of "Professional Carer" but I ended up feeling rather concerned about some of the suggestions which were being made to the individual.
As someone who is a great believer in using writing to empty my head I felt most comfortable suggesting this to the individual. And not just because it happens to be suggested (in various forms) in self-help books and problem pages - it actually works for me.
It honestly felt like the individual was in the middle, with me on one side and (almost) everybody else who was trying to help on the other. The solutions the rest of them kept suggesting started to sound more and more dangerous - also sounding like they were trying to cure the symptoms rather than the cause.
All I could do was support the individual, offer Sounding Board services, and hope that would be enough. I certainly couldn't do or say half of the things I wanted to say to various people due to the distance involved - and some people can be very thankful indeed that was the case.
The only thing I could do which I knew would put my mind at rest (even though it could have driven the other person up the wall) was send "Good morning" texts. This was my way of letting them know someone was thinking of them. After all, what is a few seconds spent typing a text message and sending it??? This also progressed to me asking them if they were OK if I hadn't heard from them for some time. (Along with sending virtual hugs.) They really appreciated this.
However, it was only tonight when I found out what a difference my seemingly insignificant actions had made. They told me that I had really helped them. Two thing stunned me the most about that information. The first being the fact that I was convinced that they had done the hard work (by taking up my suggestion - as well as coping with everything which was going on) - and the second being that I thought there was one other person who deserved more thanks than I did because they did a lot more to help.
It just goes to show that sometimes all you need to do is be there for someone - ask them how they are - be a Sounding Board if they want to mouth off at the world - and, most of all, do not judge them.
You may think that they are going about trying to solve their problems in the exact opposite way to the one you would choose but - unless you know everything they are going through at that moment - you are not in a position to make alternative suggestions.
Oh - and saying "I told you so", when things go wrong isn't helpful to anyone - least of all you. The other person may decide you are going to sit in judgement on them forever and be less willing to ask your advice in future.
The sign of a true and lasting friendship is the ability to share the other person's burden but admit you don't know every single answer to their problems. Also to receive friendship (be it hugs - both virtual and real - or just support in whatever form it takes) as well as give it.
I will close with something which really sums up what I am trying to say;
My least favourite question in a job interview is "how would your friends describe you?" - it just makes me want to hand the interviewer my mobile and tell them to ring a couple to find out. A bit like the "Phone A Friend" option from 'Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire'.
The question I wish interviewers would ask me is "how do you treat your friends?" - my answer would be as follows;
I try to treat my friends with respect and kindness. I think I am loyal to them. I will go out of my way to help them if they are also prepared to help themselves. I provide Sounding Board Services. Most of all, I will never say anything about them behind their back which I wouldn't say to their face. Basically, I try to treat my friends as I would wish them to treat me. You will have to ask my friends how successful I am with that - but I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
We just need to remember that we are all in this together.
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