How to set your 2018 on fire: Part 11 of 18
11. I will say something when there is nothing that can be said
When you don’t know what to say, say SOMETHING. When tragedy strikes, many people run for the hills because they feel awkward, and they don’t know what to say. I get that, it’s a very human response.
Sometimes there is nothing you can say that will make things any better for the person going through that thing. Nothing. Nothing you say will change the situation or lessen their grief or shock, or make it any better. There is no casserole you can make that will make things okay. But that doesn’t mean don’t say anything. Or don’t do anything.
When we feel socially awkward in the face of pain and we don’t know what to say, it’s far easier for us to be silent. Wait until we figure out what to say or how to help. Just sort of step back until we know what the best approach would be. But that is a lot more about us reducing our own anxiety than doing whatwe know to be right. When someone is in massive pain the goal shouldn’t be about reducing our own social awkwardness.
When we wait until we know what the right thing is to say, we are marking time and leaving them in a void. That moment where the “right thing” to say magically comes to us will not arrive. When there are no words, time will not make the words come. So however awkward or anxious it is, we need to rise up in the moment.
Look them in the eye. Hug them heart to heart. Acknowledge their pain, knowing you cannot take it away, but that you see them and you are with them. Sometimes all you can say is, “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I am with you in any way you need it, whenever you need it.”
Some people might want a shoulder to lean on, someone to talk about things with. For others that is the last thing they need, they will appreciate distraction. For others the best way of showing love is practical assistance, where that casserole is a demonstration of practical love.
You don’t get to dictate that. You can only respond. In those times we all remember the people who did not shy away, however awkward, but who looked us in the eye and held us even though there was nothing they could do. We also remember with all too much clarity the people who backed away, said nothing, pretended nothing was happening. We know exactly who those people were too.
Sometimes all you can do is be a compassionate witness to someone else’s pain. You think you are not doing anything, but actually you are. You are becoming part of the healing. Just because there is nothing you can say, doesn’t mean that being fully, compassionately present to say nothing is not valuable. It is. More than you will know.
More columns in this series
- See How to set your 2018 on fire: Part 1
- Part 2: I will face forward
- Part 3: In 2018 my body will move my mind
- Part 4: In 2018 I will speak up, not eat up
- Part 5: In 2018 I will (sometimes) accept the unacceptable
- Part 6: I will set boundaries around my phone
- Part 7: I will be happily less than perfect
- Part 8: Let them do them. You do you.
- Part 9: I will claim my power
- Part 10: I will be my own cheerleader
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at bite.co.nz/wellbeing