The word friend means many different things to different people. We have some friends who are in our inner circle and perhaps several or a few in our outer circles. We call some friends when we need to laugh and others when we want to cry. Some friends give us advice and listen to our stories and we return the favor. And, if we are lucky enough we have friends who we call when we want to speak from our heart and feel understood. I call these friends-the "confidantes". It is not easy to make these kind of friends and build these kinds of relationships. This takes a lot of work, trust and courage on both ends. If you have even one friend who really gets you and is attuned to how you are really feeling or asks how you are truly feeling then you are blessed. Those of us who have this confidante are likely to feel happier, less likely to get sad and more likely to stay healthy because in life what most of us want more than anything is to feel understood. Right?
Consider those days when you walk through the day smiling when you are really feeling down and out. That's not so easy; is it? How about when you are struggling with a dilemma and you just don't know who to talk to about it. Yes, you can talk to a therapist but not everyone has a therapist or has an appointment that particular day.
I have some ideas about how we can be better friends for each other. Keep in mind that you can't possibly be this kind of friend for everyone. And, please try to work on reciprocity in the relationship with the 2 of you in the friendship taking care of each other.
1. When you talk to your friend pay attention to not only what s/he is saying but also to her body language including her voice. She may say that she's fine but her sad voice and posture may indicate otherwise. If you feel that the words and the body language are inconsistent then go for it and ask your friend how she is really feeling. Believe me this will be much appreciated.
2. Your friend has experienced a major disappointment. Do not ignore it because you feel awkward about addressing it. We all have a need to talk about that which ails us. Please ask your friend if s/he would like to talk about her divorce,death of her relative, illness etc.
3. Do not assume that your friend is over her/his grief or other source of pain simply because s/he is back to work and back to the usual routine. Continue inquiring until your friend gives you the message that s/he will not benefit from addressing the issue.
4. If you get the sense that your friend is depressed than you must inquire about it. Depression is rampant and yes people do kill themselves and/or live with tremendous amounts of pain without ever talking about it. Mental health is an illness like any other. Ask about mood like you would ask about any other illness. The life you save may be your friend's.
5. Let your friends know that you, too, would like to talk about the happy and the sad. Give them permission. We will all benefit from open and authentic conversation.
Let's get to it!