Tell me something. Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend when you have news to share and upon picking the right moment, you announce I’m getting married/moving to San Diego/having a baby/grieving the loss of a loved one/learning french, and they give you one of the following reactions:
a) Indifference: That’s Cool.
b) Selfishness: I wish I was getting married
c) Searching for Points: I TOTALLY KNEW!
d) Lack of Support: You totally can’t learn french.
Ok these may be lame examples, but isn’t it the most disappointing feeling when you’re so excited to share moments with your mates and family, and they don’t seem to join you in that celebration or sorrow, whatever that may be? I was fortunate to go on some extended travel a couple of years back and when I was telling people of my trip, the most common response was “I’m so jealous!” I mean, that’s showing some enthusiasm somewhat, but it’s not that fun when it’s the only thing you hear. It makes you not want to share news sometimes.
However, I have a dear friend, who shall remain nameless, but she is my complete, one-stop go-to person with news. She knows how to react WELL. When I was getting married, she screamed. When I finally finished some study, she started crying in a shopping centre. When a loved one was very ill, she sent cards. and cookies. and flowers. and more cards. She reacts WELL. Even if she knew the news, she reacted well.
I’m 31 and apparently it’s the time to have babies now, so announcements come left, right and centre. Another dear friend recently showed me how to react well by sharing with me that when/if my time comes, she’s gonna be happy. She also said that she may struggle with it, being through a journey of her own in this area, but she said that she still wanted to share the joy. What a gift.
These ladies gets points. What does not get points, are people who claim news for your friends (“I totally brought those guys together”). Or people that tell you that they already guessed – I’ve witnessed (and, admittedly, been part of ) many a conversation where people are confronted with revealing news because they’ve been watched like hawks over their meal choices/facebook posts/stretchy pants/outdoor clothing purchases. That’s no fun.
People who also don’t get points are friends who don’t get excited, or even acknowledge that excitement is present, despite the fact that their friends are bursting with glee. Or if they tell you a “your coffee may have been great but I had an even better coffee than you this morning/when I was in Germany/when I was making my artisan pickles” story. You don’t get points that way friends, you just end up looking like a jerk. And you’re not being a good mate.
If you did know she was engaged/he had started a new job/that they had a bad haircut, or you feel concerned about their choice, or worried about their future, save that conversation for your husband. or best mate. or hair dresser. If you do have genuine concerns, such as if your best mate announces that he is moving to Peru with a woman he met on the internet three weeks ago, there may be time for some sage advice and perhaps encouragement in an opposite direction, but SAVE THAT FOR LATER.
First impressions matter. Be generous. Your friend’s news is not about you.
It’s not about lying or deceiving someone how you really feel about their news – neither is it about gossiping about how you really feel to others – it’s more about the gift of attention & recognition of the moment.
If the news hurts you in someway because of what you’ve got going on at the moment, consider:
a) is RIGHT NOW the best time to tell them this? or
b) is THIS PERSON the best person to tell this to?
If you don’t know what they’re talking about, ask. Don’t dismiss.
If you don’t know what to say, say “I’m really excited for you/I’m sorry for your loss”. Fullstop.
If you’ve already seen it on facebook, say “I’m happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.
If you don’t care about what they’re talking about, say “I’m so happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.
It’s one of the biggest gifts you can give someone, and one of the significant strengths of friendship. Win friends and influence people, people: React Well.
2 thoughts on “You did WHAT????! Or, the Art of Reacting Well.”
Just found your blog, Kirsten. This is wisdom.
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