I give out a whole lot of advice here on this blog. I started this blog because I was giving out a whole lot of advice and perspective to a number of my friends, and realized that I was telling them all the same things – and that this was generally good advice for life. But of course there are times when I fall off my horse as well; I’ve written about that in a number of other posts (here, here, and here, for example). And if there’s one thing I’ve learned that I did not expect to learn, it’s that sometimes, when I pour my heart out to a friend and they respond with things I already know… I actually need to hear it. It makes me feel a lot better.
Sometimes, the more intelligent we think we are, the less we like to be told something we already know; it’s as if this insults our intelligence, that the other person would assume we don’t know this elementary thing they are speaking about. Furthermore, when “smart people” are depressed and don’t know where to turn, it often feels doubly wounding that somebody would think that insulting their intelligence would somehow make them feel better!
The solution to feeling stuck doesn’t always start with finding a solution, however. Sometimes it starts with empathy – a sense of understanding. Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about some problems I was having with another friend of mine, problems that were really getting me down. I was feeling hurt that Dana (names changed) seemed not to be able to trust me about something. So my first friend Tristan responded: “give her some space, with time she will be ok and you can talk to her.” This was something I was already going to do – it was the obvious choice, given that Dana was not in a mood to take what I said at face value. I think Tristan knew I wasn’t going to continue trying. But when Tristan said those words… I felt validated. I felt better. I felt more like I was on the right track – even though I was already feeling on the right track before.
The giving of validation as a form of empathy is a wonderful way to support somebody when they’re down. It says “I am on your wavelength; you have a good reason to think the way you are thinking.” If you don’t want somebody to think you are being condescending, you can always say, “it’s pretty likely you know this already, but I’m going to say it anyway, just because it’s always good to hear someone else besides yourself say it.”
When a person nods their head and agrees with you, that can feel relieving. However, when a person takes a thought or perspective you hold and repeats it as their own, it feels positively validating once you are able to put any arrogance you are holding onto aside – especially when that person is a friend that you have turned to for support.
Truly great thoughts cannot be patented or copyrighted. They are free to be reproduced in the minds of person after person. And thank goodness for that.