Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Not To Say

Last week I had to attend a training on how to be a better teacher because most of what I do is try to teach people about good nutrition, but more importantly (and much more difficult) how to make changes in their diet to alleviate some of their difficulties, improve their quality of life, try to make them happier, etc. Can I just say that whoever thinks being a dietitian is easy, has NO CLUE. NONE. Sure, it sounds easy yabbering at people and throwing handouts and meal plans at them, all the while trying to counteract the fad diets, insane health claims, and other blasphemous quackery that has taken over. Anyone can do that. But trying to encourage and promote change is the hardest thing ever because I. can't. change. for. them. It's hard

With that said, one thing that this class emphasized, and that I have been pondering about, is active listening. Do you know how hard that is? To listen to someone without judging or assuming? To listen to someone without interrupting? It's REALLY hard. And I'll be the first to admit, I'm not that great at it and it's something I've suddenly become very aware of and I have been working on. Except then patients talk and talk and end up telling me about their erectile dysfunction and those are the moments I wish I had cut them off about 10 minutes ago. Aka-awkward.

But seriously.

I think people just want to be listened to. Genuinely listened to. I mean I sure do. Who doesn't? And I learned that there are some things that we say, myself included, that are really not that helpful. So here's the thing. I try to keep my posts light and funny but this is maybe not so funny. I've had a pretty rough month and in fact, most of 2015 isn't looking so great. I bet you're thinking I'm being a little pessimistic, right? Dramatic? A downer? Hard not to judge right? Right? 

My husband has been gone for almost three weeks and it's been hard. It's harder because even though he comes home soon, I know that in a few months he'll be gone again for a much longer time and, it's hard guys, it's really hard. It's flat out awful. My other half, my best friend, my man, my support isn't here. So I have to do everything by myself. Not only do, as in the dishes, the cleaning, taking out the garbage, and paying the bills, but I have to worry about everything, and some days, it feels like I'm on my own, worrying for 2. And sure, I haven't been married for that long so it can't be that hard and we don't have kids yet, but you know what, it is. It is that hard. It is hard because I have no friends around, my family is thousands of miles away and they have their own lives to deal with and I feel so very alone at times.

And you know what makes me mad, is when people dismiss my feelings, but I think most people don't even realize that their responses seem that way. So it was interesting to learn about the phrases and things that you shouldn't say to someone struggling, and it hit home because I hear these things a lot, attempts to try to make me feel better that actually end up backfiring. I think mostly that means well-intended, off-handed, but not really helpful, words of encouragement. For example: 

Don't tell me to be cheerful, because 90% of time in front of everyone else, I am, and if I'm not, there's probably a reason, but usually I slap on a smile and pretend everything is alright because that's what we are supposed to do, right? I try keep myself busy and entertained and involved so that I don't just mope in the corner like I feel like doing some or most days. I usually start to crack or start to vent to people that I hope and/or feel comfortable enough to let my guard down to. Sometimes it's a mistake and sometimes it's a relief. 

Don't tell me it's going to be ok or it'll all work out. I hate this phrase. I'm guilty of using it but FOR. THE. LOVE. I'm 27 years old. I may be young but I've been through enough hell in my 27 years to know that as bad as things get, they will work out. I know this. I know. Truly. But absolutely generally, that's the last thing I want to hear. 

Misery wants company. No I don't mean I want you to be miserable too. What I mean is that it's nice to know that sometimes there actually IS someone who knows exactly or pretty darn close to what I'm going through. I was talking to a close friend the other day and we were both swapping the latest and greatest including some of our hard times we've had recently and though neither of us wanted or was happy the other was suffering in some form, it was nice to know that someone gets it. And that we could just talk about it. We weren't trying to solve the problems but we were just acknowledging them. 

And you know what, I think most people, on top of being listened to, just want some acknowledgment. I appreciated that someone acknowledged that what I'm going through is hard and that it's ok to be mad and sad and frustrated and to cry. It's ok. I don't have to be happy 24/7. That's insane because life is hard and mean sometimes!! I am allowed to be upset and angry and sad. Maybe not forever, but you know what I mean. It's ok to feel those things and to feel them completely. And I was venting to a friend today, well venting and trying really hard not to crack but failing, and you know what she said that made all the difference, that my situation was hard and it sucked and that I was doing ok. Thank you. Thank you because that really helped. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is really listen to people and show them that you are listening by having a genuine, thoughtful response. It sure helped me! Or you may become my next victim because lemme tell you, I had to attend a leadership meeting a couple of days ago in place of someone and I made a comment and got interrupted in the middle of my comment and I'm surprised there wasn't steam coming out of my ears. Had the room been any bigger I would have sent this interrupter a withering glare for putting me down like he did and dismissing my suggestion. Punk. I wanted to say "ZIP IT SKIPPY. Let me finish," but I bit my tongue, smiled, and kept quiet. Grrrr.....

And now this exhausted emotional train wreck is off to bed. My husband comes home soon...my husband comes home soon...my husband comes home soon. 


Jessica Mitchell said...

Amen! Thanks for sharing! I totally agree. There's so much power to being acknowledged and validated. A lot of the time that's all I need to start feeling a little better. I think the same holds true across all kinds of situations, such as people having doubts with the church. Anyways, sorry you have to be without your hubby!

Therese Reeve said...

I am probably the worst one for saying "be of good cheer! Hang in there! It'll all work out!" So I apologize. I had to live that way for years and repeat that to myself and live it for my children just to be able to hang in there. I have a friend who once in awhile would say exactly what I needed; not to keep a stiff upper lip, but instead she would say, " you are amazing; how do you do it all?" It gave me strength and she acknowledged me and my load. Thank you Julie. And Gabe, I'll quit being a cheerleader and be. Better listener. I'm married to a great listener who allows me to whine - a lot! I sure love you and have always been in awe of your strength and perseverance, You rock Doodlebug!

Rachel Staves said...

I relate with your post in so many ways... thanks for sharing :)

Jenna said...

Write it out girl, and send it my way! or call or anything. seriously. I'm on house arrest with twin babies and a preschooler on the lonely Minnesota tundra, so I'd love to listen! you are awesome. Love you!

Anonymous said...

"It's going to be all right". How many times have I heard people say this in the worst situations. Movies...TV...life. How do they know? What gives them the clairvoyance to see into the future and know? I've taken to the simplest for I know: "I'm sorry" or "I'm so sorry". Gabe: I'm sorry.

AB said...

It is hard to be away from you spouse. I can't even imagine what you are going through Gabe! When Brett and I were first married we we're so poor Brett had to move back home in the summer to work and make money, and I had to stay in Provo for school. We were only apart 4 months but I was grouchy the whole time! You are tough Gabe! And I agree we all just want to be listened to and validated.