I can come off as ‘nosey’ sometimes – asking too many questions. I’m not trying to offend, I’m just so curious about people. Why they do what they do. My (mistaken) assumption is that most people are like me, happy to share. In my own defense, sometimes asking a question offers a Life-line to someone in the exact moment they need one. “I see you. I’m interested in you. You matter, right now and always; wherever you go, and whatever you do from here on out.”
It’s a balancing act of knowing what to ask, when to ask, and how to listen with compassion. Case in point. Someone close to me might be in a struggle: the hot-mess confusion we all experience. A lack of clarity and confidence. If I see, hear, or sense that, I’ll usually offer a question or observation. S/he/they might blow me off, make a joke, or get defensive; but at least I asked. I’ve communicated, “I’ll just be here. Whether or not you feel like talking.”
This past weekend I was in convo with a guy who isn’t family, but who’s part of my larger tribe. A friend of my father’s, so, an Elder. This man has always felt comfortable critiquing the younger twenty-somethings in my bio family. The checklist of ‘millennial mistakes’, from his perspective, is way longer than any of their accomplishments.
There can definitely be a sense of superiority, from older gens toward younger people. The “Can you believe he really did something so dumb??”, headshaking with a side of eyeroll disbelief. As this Elder (a man I’ve always respected) began dissecting a young person we both know, I waited for my chance to ask questions.
No doubt, the young guy the Elder was talking about had made some seriously bad choices. Negative consequences rolled over the 29-year-old like killer waves. He’d get up, then be knocked down again. He was flailing. Everyone in his family and in the larger Tribe could see it. Changing our Emotional DNA
Making matters worse, this young man had been estranged – for a while — from both of his parents. He thought of this Elder as a kind of surrogate father. Something I’d picked up on. So, over this past weekend – as Elder and I got caught up – I had to ask. “What did you say to [—] when you got your in-person opportunity?” The man’s answer: “Nothing. It was really none of my business, so I just stayed out of it.” I’m almost never at a loss for words, but at that moment I was.
It’s not simply a generational thing. Be it a family member, neighbor, friend, or a stranger. A lot of us see, hear, and feel suffering daily, but we look away. “It’s none of my business.” Or “He wouldn’t accept my help even if I offered it.” Or “I’ve got my own problems!” Maybe we’ve been over-exposed to so much personal drama on social media that we’re numb. Or suspicious: Are they really depressed and hurting, or just looking for attention?
I don’t know the answer to the social media question, but I’m clear about my own beliefs. I’ve learned to trust my own emotional intelligence and guidance. If it feels appropriate, I’m going to ask questions and offer observations when asked. If that’s not helpful and I get shutdown, so be it. I’ll have made the effort.
What if I don’t get a little nosey, when the old lady around the corner doesn’t come outside for weeks? Or if I don’t invite the wrath of my millennial relatives – asking for the ba-zillionth time, “You good?” — and their Depression says, “No one really cares.” And then, “Life isn’t worth living.”
I’m not going to be the one to decide, “It’s none of my business”. I’ll take the bravest path I know instead, and let them blast me with that Truth. Or not. Change a Life With the Words “I Hear You”