Empathy, Friendships, Sisterhood

How Are You and Do I Care?

I realized a very long time ago that the question “how are you?” is really a greeting akin to “good morning” or any other salutation depending on the time of day. It is not a question where the real answer is expected to be given. Even if they really want to hear how are you doing; do they really want all the details of exactly what is going on? Are they merely just trying to be polite? Have you ever mistakenly thought someone really wanted to know how you were doing? When you began to share what was troubling you or what you were going through; you got interrupted mid-sentence with “I’m really sorry I have to run! Let’s talk soon.” Here’s the kicker; you never talk soon!! It has happened to me a few times and now I find myself responding with the obligatory “I am fine”.  I can’t say when “how are you?” transitioned to just an empty greeting. It could be with the rise of technology, social media, smart gadgets and a whole host of attention demanding things. It’s a little shocking and disheartening that so many of us really want to truly answer “how are you?” but choose not to. We see posts about mental health and emotional wellness. We huddle in small groups when a friend, family member or a celebrity commits suicide and we later learn they struggled with depression or some other mental illness. Why does it take the news of an untimely death for us to remember what matters? Because for some of us, the issue isn’t even remembering what matters. It’s identifying what matters in the first place. It is so easy to get caught up with what is going on around us. A screen is always demanding our attention. Be it a television, personal computer, or a hand-held device – tablet or smart phone. Here are five tips you can use to truly show your friends you care.

Helping others is the way we help ourselves.

oprah winfrey

Make the time to listen and listen with empathy

Actively listen to what your friend is saying.  To actively listen is to maintain eye contact, adopt a body posture that shows you are interested and care about what your friend is saying.  By giving your undivided attention to your friend, you demonstrate that you care about what they are going through. Do not listen to reply or to offer a solution. Listen with an empathetic ear. Empathetic listening is connecting emotionally with your friend, abstaining from judgement and being compassionate towards them.  Sometimes all people want to do is vent their frustrations and voice their concerns. If you truly do not have the time in that moment to hear how they are doing; offer to connect soon and keep your word! Connect with your friend and listen to them.

Offer help

If you friend has a concern and you can help; do not respond with “oh you’ll be fine” instead offer to help and provide specifics. “You’ll be fine” is in the realm of the obligatory “How are you?” It is empty and borderline dismissive. Being specific about the help you offer demonstrates you are paying attention to your friend’s needs. Your specific offer is helpful because your overwhelmed and stressed  friend does not have to think about the very open-ended offer of “let me know if you need anything”

All of us have ways in which we mask and cover our pain

iyanla vanzant

Check in on them

Let’s face it, our phones spend more times in our hands than they don’t. If you know a friend is going through a hard time or even if you are not aware. Send a quick text, instant message, a DM or make a phone call. This is a great way to let them you they are in your thoughts and you care. This is a great way to maintain contact; especially for friends who live far from you. You never know; that phone call could be the lifeline they desperately needed!!

Do an act of kindness

Do something kind for your friend, buy them a cup of coffee or tea and if you can take 5 mins to hear how they are doing. Take them out to lunch or pack an extra lunch and have a lunch date. By taking this extra step to be kind it demonstrates to your friend you care about their well being and you are doing what you can to show them.  

If you judge people you have no time to love them.

Mother Teresa

Keep it judgement free

This is easier said than done but it truly is possible. Your friends may make choices you don’t agree with or may be in a situation you cannot relate to. Regardless, they are your friend and in such a circumstance demonstrating unconditional acceptance of who they are is truly helpful and serves as positive reinforcement. After all the tables could turn and you would want them to be non-judgmental, right? By offering support and creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable this will help them heal and strengthen the bond of your friendship.

We live in a world where so much competes for our ever-shrinking attention! It is easy lose touch; as to some, a like on an Instagram post can be equated to keeping connected.  Technology and smart gadgets were meant to connect us across distances but in some cases we feel more separated and isolated! Virtual reality and virtual friendships disappear when real life intervenes. So make it a habit of regularly checking in on your friends, ask them how they are doing and make sure to listen to the answer.

Photo by Eloise Ambursley on Unsplash 
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Photo by Kory Williams on Unsplash  
Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash 

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