Not too long ago, I read a letter to Dear Abby that touched directly on some lessons I have repeated frequently from my 13 Secret Behaviors. The letter actually involved two behaviors that today I want to emphasize as one profound guideline. But first, let me give you the background from the letter.
The letter writer, a woman, had recently lost her mother, and when she returned to work after the funeral, she was approached by many co-workers to express their sympathy. However . . . she said that instead of giving her a hug, they shared stories of the death of their own loved ones. She was so drained after seven of those stories that she had to go home.
The next day, one of her dear friends came to the office, gave her a thermos of home-made soup, hugged her, and left. She said that was the most uplifting moment she had experienced since the passing of her mother.
One of my phrases to you has been to 'leave your story at the door'. The people in the office were well-meaning, but misguided. They thought that sharing their own grief stories would let her know they understood what she was going through. But . . . she said in her letter that what they didn't understand was that she didn't have the energy to listen to their stories. They were not helping her in her need . . . they were actually adding to her stress.
When you wish to offer loving support to a person, leave your own story at the door. That is not the time to draw attention to yourself! You are there to help the other person.
Which leads to the other secret: 'just show up'. The friend who brought the thermos and the hug didn't have to say anything. She just showed up! Many people don't know what to say when someone dies, so they make the mistake of staying away and not saying anything, or the mistake of approaching the grieving person and saying too much, or trying to cheer them up with 'catch phrases' or by quoting scripture.
So, my combined lesson is, in situations where you are aware of a person who is hurting, JUST SHOW UP, and while you are there, LEAVE YOUR OWN STORY UNSAID. If you feel awkward, don't worry about that - just show up! You don't have to have the right words to say. You don't have to say anything. Just show up. (And save your own tale for another time.)
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