I was reflecting back on a time that wasn’t so good – way back in my junior year of college. There was a family emergency and I wasn’t home, and it felt kind of isolating and just not good. I was telling a friend about some of the stuff that was going on and they literally said, “Well if it makes you feel any better, my grandpa was just diagnosed with cancer.”
If you’re wondering whether that succeeded in helping me lift my chin, wonder no more.
Are you kidding me?!?
Both online and offline, it seems like we’ve kind of lost the art of how to cheer someone up. I’ve noticed that people fall into a few different patterns when in these scenarios. See if you recognize them.
The Contest Approach: There is nothing you can tell this person that they haven’t already experienced times 1,000. If you had to take the bar exam, they were in the Spanish Inquisition. If you were in a car accident, they were involved in the worst accident in the state’s history. If you aren’t feeling well, they have to go in for an appendectomy. Again. Now I suppose you could argue that this comparative approach could be an attempt to put things into a better perspective for you. Being an empathetic person, I always find myself rather torn on these occasions. I want to feel bad for this person, but after the fiftieth time of them one-upping me on how life is jerky, it’s hard to muster up many tears, ya know?
The Random Topic Change Approach: This one gets really weird sometimes. You are sitting there telling someone about a junky thing that happened. They seem to be listening, they are saying, “Oh, oh wow, mmhmm,” and then suddenly they ask, “Do you like Swiss cheese?” Now again, I’m sure the intent here is good. “I will distract you from your woes.” But it can seem really strange and unsympathetic at times!
The “I’m not listening” Approach: A friend of mine once told me about a study that was conducted at a university. A student asked people walking by how they were doing. The people would say, “Oh, I’m fine, how are you?” The student conducting the survey would respond with, “Well, I was recently diagnosed with cancer.” A large percentage of people either simply kept on walking or said, “Great, great.” It’s harder to do this in the online world in some ways because the words ARE right in front of you, but are you really taking them in? Aye, that’s the key question, right?
The fact is that we all need to do a better job of listening to each other. I remember once asking a friend who had a bad cold how they were. They said, “Oh, I’m fine.” Then they stopped, turned around, and said, “Oh, right. It’s you. You actually truly care how I am. Well, I feel…” and then I was sorry I asked! But seriously, do you ever just reach out to people and say, “Hey, how are ya?” We all talk about how we can present these facades in the online world, but what if you ask how someone is and they say, “Eh, had better days.” Do you stop to cheer them up or do you do what those folks in the university study did? “Fine, great, have a godo day!”
The really odd thing is that cheering someone up can sometimes be the easiest thing in the world, right? How many times have you been feeling just kind of meh, and someone brought you a dumb thing like a funny little drawing and it cheered you right up? We are all so busy working our butts off, stressing out, freaking out, that when someone indicates they are thinking of us in a nice and friendly way, it makes us stop and say, “Hey, that was nice!” It’s pretty easy to let someone know you’re thinking about them, especially in the online world. Here are some prompts, just in case you’re rusty.
“Hi! I haven’t seen you in ages! How are you?”
“I’ve been wondering how you were doing!”
“I saw this and thought of you…”
See, super easy. It may not be stuff that will help your Klout score, but it could make someone’s day.
Don’t you think?
Image by constantin jurcut. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/costi