A conversation in my office with a client earlier this week triggered a flood of memories which reminded me of the importance of doing something and saying little. Rather than doing nothing and saying lots.
My client, let’s call her Marg, was sharing with me the increasing frustration she was feeling with Kate, her best friend since grade 8.
Marg recently celebrated her 40th birthday which means their friendship has lasted several decades.
Marg’s growing intolerance stems from an ever increasing number of phone calls she is receiving from Kate, always to discuss the same topic.
Kate had sought Marg’s counsel early in 2013 when, over lunch at a local restaurant, she shared her growing unhappiness in her marriage and her feelings of growing further and further apart from her husband to the point where she felt they were two strangers living under the same roof whose only conversations concerned the activities and well-being of their two children.
Marg had listened both sympathetically and empathically and assured Kate she would always be there for her, whenever needed.
She left the restaurant, feeling sadness for a friend, but also confident this was a temporary glitch they would resolve themselves and their marriage would grow and prosper.
Over the next several months each call from, and meeting with Kate was a repeat of the previous one with recurrent singularity of topic – Kate’s unhappiness in her marriage.
In the beginning Marg had offered comfort along with the occasional suggestion that she thought might benefit Kate but over time it became increasingly obvious that, despite her growing unhappiness, Kate was doing nothing to address her concerns with her husband or to resolve this issue in any way whatsoever.
And Marg found herself disengaging from Kate. With increasing frequency, she chose not to answer the phone when Kate’s number popped up on the screen and became creative in making excuses for reducing the frequency of their lunches and coffees.
As I listened to Marg’s tale of her increasing frustration with Kate’s inaction, faces of people I know began popping into my head.
The faces were of people who, over long periods of time, have shared with me the same story over and over again of issues, or challenges in their lives, ranging from their inability to quit smoking, to ongoing frustration about their constant weight gain, to the growing hatred for their jobs and careers, and their unhappiness in their relationships.
The common thread among all was that in each life there was an issue of growing and ongoing pain and frustration, yet it seemed that all any of them were willing to do was to talk about their issue.
Over and over and over again.
It is said that a real friend will always be there for you in times of need. A real friend will offer comfort, consolation, and will put their arms around you and tell you that “everything will be alright.”
That’s what a real friend will do.
A true friend will do something completely different.
A true friend will tell you what you don’t want to hear, no matter how harsh and painful it might be.
A true friend will pull no punches.
A true friend will push you into a course of action when you are cocooned inside a pathway of inaction.
Many years ago a true friend told me to “shut the **** up” and to do something.
After several weeks of listening to me whining about the same topic, he told me, in what I, at the time, thought to be a cold and clinical way, that he was no longer available to listen to me, that he would always be there to support me when I take action but would not be there to listen to me if talking is all I was doing.
He explained it was too painful to sit and repeatedly listen to someone he cared about destroy themselves by their unwillingness to take action.
Max DePree, a well-known businessman and author said, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.”
The moral of his quote is clear and I encouraged Marg to no longer be Kate’s best friend, but rather her truest one
To explain to Kate that she has two choices, and both require action. The first choice is to accept the situation as it is which means to no longer talk about it, to become comfortable and okay and satisfied with it and move forward with her life.
The second choice to put enormous effort into creating a marriage she wants with the full understanding that if her efforts do not produce the results she wants, she needs to makes a decision about her marriage.
I saw a plaque hanging on the wall of a store years ago that read, “Nothing happens until something happens.” The truth is many of us have things in our lives that are not as we wish them to be. Some are minor inconveniences and some potentially cause major pain.
In each case, if we want any of these to change, there are three rules, inviolable rules, that must be followed.
Rule One: Do something. This might not get the results you want and you may need to experiment with numerous different actions.
Rule Two: Finish what you start. Don’t quit until you either get the result you want or conclude that it is not attainable, and then make new choices.
Rule Three: Make sure you have at least one true friend in your life; a friend who cares about you and loves you so much that they will never spare your feelings and will always tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
We don’t need a lot of true friends, but we all benefit by having at least one. If you choose to become that true friend to someone else, you may well be the only person who will help them have any chance at a happy life.
Being a true friend doesn’t pay well and, quite often, is not received well, but in the end, a true friend will always trade your feelings today for your happiness tomorrow.
That’s what true friends do.
Till we read again.
Finally, after months in the works, my company’s new website is up. Please take a moment and visit www.strategicpathways.net . Browse through this site and then click on the “Contact Us” tab or firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Your opinion truly means a lot to me.