Have you ever heard someone say something shockingly inappropriate to someone who was going through a difficult time?
Just the other day someone relayed to me that a newly-widowed friend of hers has frequently been required to console other people as they mourned the loss of the person’s spouse.
There’s a good chance we’ve all said the wrong thing at one time or another, which is why I absolutely loved this article shared by my friend Jenny recently.
In this op-ed from the LA Times, Susan Silk and Barry Goldman offer a tangible filter we can use to make certain our comments are caring and not self-serving.
In any time of hardship, think of the people involved as a set of concentric rings, like a bulls-eye. The person who is most affected is at the bulls-eye, and people furthest from the situation are in the outermost ring.
Then assess what circle you are in, and determine if the person you’re speaking to is closer to the center ring than you or further out.
- If they are closer to the bulls-eye than you, you offer a listening ear and comfort. ONLY listening and comfort.
- If they are further away from the bulls-eye than you, you can share your own grief and hardship.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say a girl from your book club finds out her child has an incurable disease. For our purposes, she is the “Most Afflicted”.
Now figure out what “ring” you are in. Who are you to her, really?
Are you her parent or BFF? Then you are in the closest ring. You can bemoan the injustices of the universe to whomever you please. To anyone, that is, except the Most Afflicted.
But chances are you’re neither of those. So… are you one of her closest friends? Think top 5 here. Would she say you’re one of her top 5 closest friends? If so, you can share your grief with someone further away from the bulls-eye. Just don’t do it to the Most Afflicted or her sister or her BFF.
And so forth and so on down through the nosy nosertons who have no business talking about it anyway.
Never dump inward. Silk and Goldman state it best:
“Comfort IN, dump OUT.”
What do you think of this “Ring Theory”? …Have you ever been the victim of inward dumping?
Fun fact from this post: Knowing well the severe limitations of my illustration skills, I asked the LA Times if I might use their image since I was (at that time) intending this post to serve merely as a jumping off point to theirs.
Those jokers came back with a price of $150 a year. So shoddy illustrations it is!