Do you give people what they want and need or what you think they want and need?
Or, do you give them what you want or need?
Our air conditioner recently stopped working and the technician delivered the unfortunate news that we had three blown circuit boards and they would all need to be replaced. The cost was almost equivalent to installing split systems in every room in the house.
When discussing this sobering diagnosis, someone suggested contacting our insurance company. Brilliant idea I thought 😊
Before I go on, let me acknowledge that this is absolutely a first-world problem. I also want to acknowledge that I currently live in a first-world country and have access to first-world conveniences that are generally supposed to make life more comfortable. This combined with the fact that I know I am a little nuts once the temperature gets much over 30c, and we’re heading into Summer where this will be normal, it was/is probably in my best interest and those around me to get the aircon working again.
So, here is today’s first question to consider.
If there are millions of people in the world living without something (eg air conditioning) and you have it, are you really helping them by not using it?
I called the insurance company and was connected with a woman who despite meaning to be helpful, wanted to tell me EVERYTHING about my policy. I had to ask her several times to please just tell me what I needed to know with regard to this specific scenario. No, my house had not burnt down, we had not been engulfed by flood (or any other significant weather event) and as far as I knew, no one had crashed into our home. Despite this, she insisted on telling me ALL the things I could claim for and ALL the other events that ‘had they happened’ would likely make the outcome of my claim successful. In the end, I just let her talk.
A common conversation in the bereavement space is around how many friends and family we often lose after losing a child. I smile as I write this, many years ago people told me this would also happen if I became involved with a network marketing company. My experience with that was quite the opposite and today I have 4 lifelong friends as a result of that decision, but I digress…
I think the reason for the distancing between friends and family is that one or both parties are not getting what they want or need from the relationship (anymore). There is still a lot of uncertainty around how best to support someone in grief and what they want and need. I hear stories of people literally turning around and walking in another direction or crossing the road to avoid contact. The fear is usually that they will ‘upset’ the person grieving or ‘remind’ them of their loss.
I understand the reality is that most people have no idea what to say or how to help so they end up doing what feels more comfortable for them, not necessarily the person who experienced the loss – hence a breakdown in relationships.
This post is not really about how to support someone grieving, I have written many other pieces where you can find more information eg. here or here. My point today is whether it’s in the bereavement space or any other circumstances, this even works in sales, find out what a person wants and needs and give them that! Tip. If you are supporting someone in grief, it probably won’t be flowers.
To use my experience as an example, there is nothing you can say to someone who has lost a child. However, there are many things you can do – just be there. It takes no words to sit with someone quietly and listen with no opinion or judgement, or commentary. Often this means the most. Often this is all we want and need.
Avoid asking a multitude of questions, ‘what can I do?’, ‘what do you need?’ or ‘are you okay?’ Depending on where we are on our journey we likely won’t know or have an answer for you or may be simply too overwhelmed or exhausted to give you a response.
Aside from this space, but as a direct result of my experience with Ben, I have tried to get into the habit of asking myself on regular basis:
‘Am I doing this for [name] or for me?
Will this really benefit [name] or benefit me? And finally,
Is this what [Ben] wants (or would want) or needs or what I assume he wants or needs? or what I want/need?
A politician who has only ever experienced wealth and the finer things in life will rarely relate to the needs of the poor. But this doesn’t mean they can’t still make a difference.
A healthy person who has all their limbs and full faculties can rarely appreciate the mental, physical, and emotional needs of someone sick or disabled. But this doesn’t mean they can’t improve their quality of life and demonstrate respect.
A person who has never experienced the life-altering devastation of losing a child should never assume they know what is best for this person, and what they truly need or want. But this doesn’t mean they can’t still compassionately support them.
When we take the time to engage, hear, really understand, and connect with others, we learn about their experiences and challenges and usually the answers to how we can best support them. We don’t need to have personally experienced what they have to make a difference.
Ps. It turns out after a long and laborious conversation that we were not covered for repairing or replacing the air conditioning as we didn’t meet the specific ‘insurable events’. Oh well, at least it provided the basis for this week’s post 😉.
Dalya xx 💙