Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Are you your friend's comforter or interrogator?

Do you give words of comfort to your troubled friend or do you interrogate them and make them feel worse?


Do you ever select and deselect words when speaking to someone who is or has just undergone some form of trial or tribulation?  Are you one of those who do not stop to think whether your words to troubled friends will comfort or depress further? If you are, I suggest that you enrol for the next available interpersonal skills course!

It took a recent incident where I was the victim of a house break-in to remember that not all people who come in the name of sympathy or support are truly sympathetic or supportive. A countless number of “friends,” were more interested in knowing how the thief had entered, what he stole and why we only discovered the crime when we woke up in the morning. A depressingly few number of people were interested in giving me reassurance or asking if my wife and I were fine. Some people actually had the gall to ask me why I think these people broke in!  Believe me when I say it took the greatest restraint on my part, not to let loose some harsh words to these overly inquisitive interrogators. Not even the investigating officers had so many questions to ask me!

One of the worst scenarios that makes my stomach churn in disgust is when our so called sympathisers engage with the sick or bereaved. They blatantly ignore the pain that people go through at that time and want to play doctor, doctor; if not shrink, shrink. How can you grill someone who is on a hospital bed about their chances of recovery or their medical history? Is it human to demand that a bereaved person give graphic details about how their loved ones passed on?

The bottom line is this: If you find your curiosity getting the better of you at times when you need to comfort others, then please keep the good old trap shut! I concede that part of showing concern involves wanting to understand the situation. The amount of information that is to be divulged however, is the sole prerogative of the victim.  Always remember that too much probing only worsens the problem. 

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Amatomu