“You know, I just can’t stand this anymore. How dare he talk to me like that! I am going to break up with him soon………Please tell me what to do”….
These kinds of words we are used to hear daily, either from our friends, cousins or close acquaintances; heightened emotional conversation about something that is going on in their life.
How do we usually react to such versions? Maybe we say “you should have thought before getting into the relationship”, or “great! Just quit, he is not worth your attention”, or just “see what you want to do”.
However, we do not realise that our friend expects us to be like a sounding board which will absorb all the vibrations and will only leave a positive aura.
Surprised! That is true.
When someone shares a problem with us, they want us to understand them; they want us to relate to their ideas and emotions and then opt for a solution.
It would be so much better, if in the above situation we could say “Don’t worry, I can understand you feel disappointed and depressed”; when we say this, we are naming his/her emotions and that makes the other person feel that you do understand them, and that you are actually listening.
We all want to be understood; without it, how much ever friends we have or we communicate with, we are alone. But for that, we should always take the first step towards others.
Understanding others may not be that easy, but we can always try.
Rule 1- Words mean nothing.
We should first understand, that what a person is saying, doesn’t mean anything literal. For e.g. my mother is very angry because I have returned home at 11 pm in the night and she comes forth with a rolling pin saying “I will kill you today.”
Does that mean, that she will literally do it, or she even wants to kill me? No. Isn’t it? She is just too much upset with me because I have not followed the usual prescribed norm of the household; she was also worried and anxious about my safety; (such that she felt she herself could die of that tension :) ) she is depressed with my negligent and irresponsible behaviour towards her and hence all these emotions accumulate and come out as anger. So look beyond words; sometimes, some gestures, eye movement, hand movements, voice etc. can express much more than words of the tongue.
Rule 2- Put your predicament at the back shelf while listening to your friends.
Sometimes, we are judgemental about a particular situation. Our assumption of a situation, develop from our own experience and emotion, and this overlaps with the emotion of our friend.
For e.g. my friend is talking about a small fight between her and her boyfriend, who had arrived late for a movie; if I have had a breakup soon, it is not difficult for me to conclude that there is a serious problem in their relationship as well, and I react “All boys are the same, they will betray today or tomorrow”.
Now this reaction can really be harmful; my friend who is currently frustrated with her boyfriend’s behaviour may get influenced with my sour words and affect her relationship; it can also be true, that my friend think that I am just blowing my own broken flute and not trying to communicate with her situation. Hence whenever you are listening to someone, put your own agendas aside which can influence your perception.
Rule 3- Reciprocate their emotional expressions.
When you are listening to someone, you should first identify your importance. You need to understand the other, and it is essential you realise that first. Your friend may say, “I am fine”.
Observe the expression of your companion. Read through the gestures; see whether she is smiling, blushing, tearing, pulling back her breath or exhaling hopelessly to understand what he/she actually feels at the moment.
Hold your friends hand or pat his/her back, or just say “I understand” with genuine expression, to reciprocate the same emotions. Your wise behaviour will actually strengthen your friend with moral support.
Rule 4- All of us are lonely.
We are social animals, and we need someone to pour out whatever we have in our stomach, hence all of us feel lonely at some point of time or the other, and need a person to share our thoughts with.
Rule 5- We all have short memory.
This is a simple thing we all should remember. Most of us expect that our friends, companions and well-wishers will remember each and everything about us, from birthday, to anniversary, to 3-month anniversary to weekly anniversary, our favourite colour, food, cosmetic etc. etc.
But this is an impractical approach in any relationship. We all forget; names, phone numbers, birthdates and many more things, hence if a person forgets our birthday and says ‘sorry’ later, it is very clear, he/she did not forget it on purpose, it is in human nature.
You do it, I do it, we all do it. But again, to develop this understanding, we need to put ‘ME’ behind.
Rule 6- Identify and name the emotions.
While someone describes events to you, hear his/her voice. Does it sound agitated or calm? Identify it. That is important.
Often we try camouflaging our sentiments and emotions with bold statements; we feel safe that way in a social structure, but a true friend needs to see through those house-guards.
If your friend describes her day at the University waiting for some selection results, saying “It was a huge queue; we all waited for 3 long hours, so that we could go forth and submit the final documents for our admission, but as we reached the door, we were informed that I have not been selected for the course; but I have very good results, I will get in some other place”, it is clear that she was disappointed and upset, so just name her emotions to make her know that you understand her.
Your reaction should not be “Don’t worry, you will get something”, she knows she will get it, rather you should say, “I know you have felt disappointed with these results, but it’s great that you are so confident of yourself; your confidence will surely give you success”.
When you name the emotions, ‘disappointment’ and ‘self-confidence’, you act as a true friend and confidant. Even if your friend wasn’t so confident, she will be so now.