“You’ve gained some weight. Is everything OK?” “I saw your son’s name in the paper for a DUI. How is he doing?” “Your son told mine that his dad has a bad temper. I thought you should know that.” “You lost a lot of weight and look different. How are you?” “I heard you have to sell your house after your husband lost his job. I hope you are doing alright.” “You mentioned treatment and you have been MIA lately. What’s going on? What can I do?”
I could go on and on. These are all the things we think but rarely if ever say. Instead we say, “Hey!!! You look great”; “How are you?”; “Good to see you.” The you look great comment is often our reflexive reaction when we notice different but we don’t always meant great.
What is culturally and socially acceptable to say to people? What is crossing a boundary and privacy line and what is genuine caring? I will admit that in my personal life I ask a lot of questions. It is an integral part of my professional life and my job really defines who I am. I ask because I do care. But I have to always remind myself that questioning people can come off as invasive and nosy. And on the other hand, I find myself feeling let down when friends don’t ask about my recent life event and have to remind myself that they are respecting my privacy; or possibly would feel it would make me uncomfortable to bring up a sad situation.
The clients I see are by and large the nicest, most considerate, loving and caring people to walk this Earth. How do I know? Because each session they tell me their thoughts about others and their desire to reach out, connect, listen, support. But it is impossible that they are the select few. More likely is that we all hesitate. They have the desire, but don’t always follow through. We hesitate to ask, connect, support because we are too concerned with being rejected or seen as invasive.
What we need to remember is that genuine is genuine is genuine. As humans, we can get on board with genuine intentions and love, and if we can remember that, we can say what we mean and then reap the benefits of the consequences.