… when it seemed like everything you said made people feel worse?
I work hard to make people feel better about their circumstances, and I think I do a pretty good job (based on the feedback I get). It’s the best part of my job. I never – ever – give people false comfort. That kind of reassurance is short lived and cruel. I’m a firm believer in being honest, forthcoming, respectful, and kind. I think it’s the kindness that might do the trick. It’s easier to convey respect if you come across as kind… or empathetic. When you’re honest about the pitfalls of a situation, I think it makes it easier for the person you’re helping to to believe, embrace, or “hang their hat” on the good or hope you’re offering.
There’s a danger in being too forthcoming though, or at least I think there is. I try to help folks go into a situation with as few surprises as possible, so I lay it all out. The problem is I can’t always separate the fearful from the laid back (in a relationship that lasts 30 minutes, at most); and when I can, I’m not sure it should make a difference. Today I got done with someone and it was obvious they were a nervous wreck, afraid of everything that could go wrong. “Oh my, I didn’t think THAT would be an issue!”
“I’m sorry, it probably won’t be. I’m not trying to make you worry. It’s the rare exception, not the rule. I just want you to be prepared. Sometimes easier for us to deal with it if comes up and you’re ready. Sometimes we can’t do anything about it, but others we can.”
I should have known that line wasn’t going to help. I’m a habitual worrier and it wouldn’t have done a thing for me. Then again, no one’s had a nervous breakdown on the phone, or come back to me later complaining I made them worry for nothing, so maybe I’m at least in the right zip code.