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Why "I'm here if you need to talk" is the bare minimum

And what you can say instead

By CharliePublished 4 years ago 4 min read
Why "I'm here if you need to talk" is the bare minimum
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Despite my more cynical nature and what I might say when my faith in humanity is at an all time low, most people on this planet are actually not too bad. The average person is empathetic, kind (or at least not cruel) and particularly where I'm from (the UK) pretty damn polite.

I have recently lost my best friend, who died suddenly 2 weeks ago at the time of writing this, and while the situation brings absolutely no positives, there is a small glimmer in the way that people around you respond to such an event. Nothing else brings people together more, or tears them apart further than death. It puts absolutely everything into perspective.

Many people have got in touch over the last few weeks, some people I haven't spoken to in years, and while they all mean exceptionally well and them getting in touch does mean a lot. I have noticed a recurring pattern which has made me very conscious of not repeating to others, considering I am certainly not the only one mourning at this time.

"I'm here if you need to talk".

This simple little sentence sounds lovely, and don't get me wrong it is to a certain extent. One thing that all humans crave and need is companionship. Even the biggest loner still wants to know deep down that they have someone to talk to if they need to...but they do and that's what I've realised.

Pretty much everyone in my phonebook is there if I needed to talk, and I'm talking everyone, even that random person's number you got on a night out back in 2013. Does that mean that everyone of them really cares about me? No. Most people, even borderline strangers would be there to talk if I really needed to. Don't believe me? Picture this then.

You get a phone-call out of the blue, it's not a saved number on your phone. You answer because why not. On the other end of the line is Tim (insert whatever name you like here), your old acquaintance from primary school who you barely knew when you were there and haven't spoken to them in nearly 20 years. You have a brief moment of small talk while your brain roughly pieces together who they are, playing that one vague memory you have of them like an old VHS tape.

Before your mental image of them fully loads, they hit with you with some bad news going on in their life, and that they wanted to talk to someone about it. What do you do? Do you hang up? Do you tell them to go and speak to someone else about it because you don't really know them? No, I reckon that you fall into the same category as most people on this planet, you are decent and allow them to vent whatever it is they want to say. Being the good person that you are, you listen and even engage the best you can, even if the call lasted 30 seconds.

Don't get me wrong, this is hard to do, and particularly with a borderline/full on stranger, this would be very awkward and you would most likely try and wrap up the conversation as soon as you could. However, my point is, almost anyone is there to talk if you needed to, particularly if it's just to listen. Which is actually something that should give us all hope.

However, if you know someone you genuinely care about who is going through some tough times, do more than just saying you're there if they need to talk. The problem with it too, is that you are putting the ball back in their court to put themselves out there and ask you to talk.

When someone is struggling, they're fragile, the last thing they want to do is message someone saying they want to talk, and risk being rejected. Rejection doesn't just mean you replying "no **** off, I don't want to talk to you, you freak!", but it could mean you saying "sorry mate, just in the middle of something at work, can I call you in a couple of hours?". Even that, while perfectly reasonable for you to say, is not good for the other person. To them, they've been rejected. In reality they haven't but in the midst of going through ****, it will feel like that to them.

The key here is to be proactive, be sure to give that person space as they also don't want to be bombarded with constant reminders of whatever the issue is in their life, but rather positively and proactively engage with them while also not adding effort for them.

Instead say something like this: "Hey x, first of all, you really don't need to reply to this message right now, I know you've got more than enough to deal with at the moment. I'm really sorry to hear about what's happened. I just wanted to say, you know I'm always here to talk if you need to but I know there's not much that can be said right now. I know you need your space right now, but when you're feeling up to it let's get a drink and talk about it or just chat ****, been too long anyway. I can do tomorrow, Friday, Saturday anytime, or whenever, just let me know if and when you're feeling up to it, but no pressure whatsoever just wanted you to know the options there, but take as long as you need."



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