What people say and what people do
We have all seen posts such as these on social media about how their door is always open to anyone who needs to talk, how mental health awareness means that we should all look out for each other, how we should be more thoughtful about others and how it is ok not to be ok.
They are all great sentiments and it would be amazing if we all did this. Unfortunately, some people talk a good game publicly but don’t live it out in their actions privately. Their interpretations don’t match how they are in groups. I have seen this both in work and also socially and wanted to explore this difference within this blog post.
“My door is always open to anyone who needs to talk.” – This is a great thing to claim, and well done to people who do this. If a friend came up to us and said they had a problem or had something they wanted to talk through with us, pretty much most of us would make ourselves available to listen to them and do what we could to be there for them.
“My door is always open TO ANYONE who needs to talk.” – This is a greater thing to claim when we focus on the ‘to anyone’ part making it even harder to do. If a friend came up to us and said they had a problem, we would react because they are a friend. What if you didn’t know the person who needed to talk? What if you saw someone standing on their own?
Would you help them then? Would you go out of your way and your comfort zone to strike up a conversation? Would you make yourself available for someone outside of your usual social circle? This is a much harder thing to do, and a challenge for us all to look to try and do more of this. Your real friends won’t mind you not being able to chat if you are helping someone else integrate or to get acquainted with their new surroundings.
“We should all look out for each other.” – Yes, we should. In reality, does this happen? Does it happen where people’s choices sometimes mean they are distanced from others? Does work or geographical location sometimes mean they aren’t around as much? How often do we send a message who we haven’t seen for a while and ask how they are? Just because diaries clash and you can’t find a convenient time to see each other, does that mean that they are just excluded from events? People can be kept in touch with even if you don’t get to see them.
We CAN all look out for each other if we want to. It is easy to post a status update with these phrases, but it takes a lot more to live it in real life.
“It is ok not to be ok.” – This is true, but do we want to accept this as the default situation?
We should try and get it so that more people feel ok, and not accept that they are not ok and that we are ok with that.
We should not be ok that others are not ok. We should want to do something about it.
You may have to read that a couple of times to get it! I had to as well!
Surely if we know that someone has got something going on where they are not themselves at the moment, that support and consideration needs to be increased or at least maintained, but not removed. Sidelining people and being inconsiderate by not being in touch as much, or not thinking about their feelings doesn’t help them become ok again, does it? That is adding to problems, not helping them.
There are some people who use this kind of phrases to look like they care, and to show that they are thinking of others. Are they living out the care they want us to think they are? Are they living in an echo chamber where only their views are considered? How are they seen by people outside of their friendship group?
There are several reputations that people have in life – one from people who know of the person from afar, one from people who know of the person up close, and the one they think they have. I have observed before about people thinking that they are acting in a caring way, but only within their own friendship circle. True caring is extending that attention outside of that group to people who may need someone to be there for them.
Inclusiveness and attention
When two friends meet up, does it ever seem that all the questions are just one way? Do both people pay attention to each other or are they just talking about that person more? Do they look to involve others in the conversation through introductions or opening up others into a circle? Do they look to include others?
To me, these are the kind of pointers that we can all try to do. We can all be mindful and considerate of anyone who is on their own in a group. We can look to be there for others so they don’t need to call out for help or to drift off and not return.
It’s just my view, but this is showing that we are doing more for other people and for being a better person much more than posting platitudes and sound-bytes to an echo chamber.
Sometimes by challenging and standing up to behaviours like this will be an uncomfortable thing to do in the short term, but if that makes others feel included and wanted then this is a valuable price to pay in the long term. This is living a life that makes us more open to new ideas, new experiences, and to spread happiness to a wider audience. That has to be worth trying to help others and to use our time in a meaningful and caring way.