We’ve all done it. We’ve heard a friend who is struggling and our first instinct is to let them know they’re not alone.
Our first instinct is to say, “Me, too.” Because we’ve been there. We’ve survived it. We have the fight in the rearview mirror (or we’re at least starting to drive).
We can help.
If you’re saying, “Nope. Not me. I never do that.”…then you’re a better person than me. I know for a fact that I’ve done that.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”
We want to help. We want to save our loved ones from a pain we’ve already faced. We want them to learn from our past.
And that’s a beautiful thing. And, sometimes, it’s exactly what they need.
But..other times…that’s the last thing they need.
How many times have you been lamenting to a friend and they jump in with their, “Me, too!” They start telling you their similar tale…and you think, “Ok. Cool. Let’s talk about you now, I guess.”
Did they mean to cut you off? No. And you know that. But…in that moment…you needed an ear, and not advice.
You didn’t need a “Me, too!”.
You needed an, “I’m listening.”
You guys…I am not going to lie. I was raised by men and sometimes I just am one. I jump right to, “Ok. Let’s fix this!!!” Seriously…borderline peen showing in those moments.
But I’ve learned (usually) to stop myself…and ask…”Are you looking for advice or just an ear? Because I can be either.”
Because sometimes you need, “Me, too.” followed by advice. Sometimes you need, “I’m listening so that you can work it out for yourself.”.
Sometime you need both.
But you always need to have friends who let you make that decision for yourself.
Don’t stop the “Me, too”s. We need them. We need to feel understood. We need to feel empathy.
Don’t stop the “I’m listening”s. We need to know that we have a safe space to speak freely and be loved without judgment.
But, whichever is your instinct to jump to first…
Stop (your instinct…this moment isn’t about you).
Listen (to what they are saying).
Ask (what they need).
Respect (their choice).
And hope that they’ll do the same for you.