By Jimmy Warden
You never know what someone’s going through in life, so be kind. After living for 28 years, that statement has resonated with me at a deeper level because of its truth; we really don’t know what anyone is going through.
People could be going through hard times, but they present well. We don’t suspect that they have any troubles in their lives, so we don’t always take the time to ask them how they’re doing. We don’t know whether they’re experiencing personal challenges with finances, health, relationships, work, or anything in between.
If we ask someone how they are, it’s not always done in a genuine way. It’s more robotic because asking someone how they are is a habit most people have, and we have a tendency to go through the motions of social habits.
The typical conversation doesn’t last very long because of that. An average exchange between two people sounds like this:
“Hey (insert name here), how are you?”
“Doing well, thank you for asking! How are you?”
Think about the last time you asked someone how they were doing. Did the conversation sound something like that? Did you ask because you were interested in how they are? Or did you ask because it’s polite to do so? These questions are worthwhile to think about. They can help us have more authentic interactions. To have these interactions, sometimes, it takes going first.
Quite often, I get caught up in the social norm of telling someone I’m doing well when I’m not doing well. But when I tell someone I’m stressed, overwhelmed, excited, or anything besides good, they perk up. They listen. They want to know more because I’m being authentic! And you know what happens next? They share information about their struggles, too.
Let’s bring it back to the thesis of this post: being kind to people because we don’t understand their struggles.
When someone tells us they’re doing well, there’s a high chance they could be in that moment. There’s also a likelihood that they’re battling stressors in their life. So just because they may tell us they’re doing well, that does not give us permission to treat them in any way, shape, or form. We should still be courteous in our interactions because that interaction could be the highlight of their day. And if the person is brave enough to share some of their personal struggles, there is no need to one-up them with our own struggles or invalidate their struggles. Everyone is fighting a different battle with different resources.
So we should do our best to take perspective when we’re interacting with other people. Just because they look presentable on their exterior doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing pain on their interior, so be mindful of that. And don’t be afraid to share with someone that you’re not doing well. It might be what the other person needs to hear to open up about themselves, and that could positively affect their well-being.