by Mrs. Chana Silver
I am writing to you about what I think is a common problem. I have several friends who are good friends to me. We have known each other since grade school, and been through alot together. So there is alot of commonality and history that we have. So the friendships are there and solidified – but when you have situations like this – that you are already ‘in’ – different things just become ‘patterns’ and it is hard to deal with them. Here is one issue that happens fairly often.
One of these girls – though she is, in fact, a caring person, really in general isn’t a good listener. When we touch base – she will talk a lot about what is doing in with her – and she will ask me – some things about what is doing with me – but then she really doesn’t hear me – and will usually turn the conversation back to something I just said – but… in connection to her. She doesn’t do this all the time – but enough that it has just gotten on my nerves! I find it so annoying – and somewhat callous – though, as I said, she is a caring person and has a lot to her – but this has just been on my mind.
Thanks so much for your column and for the site in general – it is such great chizuk – and I do spend time in the archives – as you suggest – there is just so much info there!
Dear JemSem Reader,
The issue you bring up is unfortunately very widespread and is an outgrowth of a larger picture. The world in general continues to very much up hold the ‘ME generation’. It’s all about ‘ME, MYSELF, AND I’ and I don’t really have time or interest to deal with YOU. As usual, the ‘ripple effects’ of the world impact upon the Jewish world. [Sometime this will change and be the opposite!! – we just have to keep trying harder!]
I am so happy to answer this question especially now as the 3 weeks will be starting soon – and we need to see how we can fix up bein adam l’chaveiro things a bit.
The unfortunate joke about the issue that you bring up is when someone says to you “Hi, How are you?” and you answer – ‘Oh, not so good, I’ve been sick for the past 2 days” and they answer “How nice!! That’s great! Let me tell you what just happened……”
It makes us smirk – but it isn’t really funny at all.
Firstly, understand that the Rambam in Hilchos Da’os writes that the way to fulfill the mitzvah of V’ahavta L’rei’acha Kamocha is by three things.
* To find ways to praise a person
* To be concerned for their money like you are concerned for your own money
* To find ways to honor them
We actually have these kind of opportunities all of the time in our day. Whenever we are speaking with someone we can look for ways to praise and compliment them [things that are real – not flattery] which can make a person feel so good. Try it – you’ll what a wonderful effect it has on people!
As far as honoring another person – there are just a myriad of ways! One of them is in the area that you mentioned. To actually train yourself to care more about them – to be genuinely interested in them and what is going on in their lives and to be a really good listener – to the things that they are saying and to react and comment to what they are saying. Not only is this the actual Mitzvas Asei – of Loving Your Friend As Yourself, by giving them a bolstering of a sense of chashivus, But you will be developing more true growth within yourself by extending yourself in these middos – and you will also be working on your interpersonal skills. And you will be making this world a better place!! It’s a win – win situation!!
By demonstrating more and more these particular middos – you will become a role model for others – as to how to be a good friend and what it really means to honor another person.
So that is how YOU can be overtly proactive with others – and work on the positive side of things.
But what to do about your friend?
In general – one must always work to be dan l’kaf zechus. Tell yourself that she has a million things going on in her life and she is just overwhelmed – and it’s just all taking up her head space. She doesn’t mean to be callous or unfeeling to you – she doesn’t have it in her to be able to listen to you. After you tell yourself that several times – put yourself aside, continue to listen to her, and see how you can help her and honor her. Realize, as you said, that she is a wonderful person in many other areas, and that the friendship is worth it to you – still – and lower your expectations for interactions with her. Consciously, interact with other friends who are better at the give and take of a friendship – and cherish those friendships – while still valuing what you have with her – but understanding that it is a bit different with her. Your attitude here about it will make all of the difference.
If you feel like you would like to try to talk with her and point it out in an open, non threatening, and down to earth way – certainly, go for it. Perhaps, it is something she can work on and you helping her be aware of it is good. Straight talk in relationships is usually a good thing. But, each situation is individual and takes thought of exactly what to do and how to go about it. So tread carefully here and really think it through if you decide to speak with her.
So to sum up: Be proactive and role model the proper behavior in your friendships, work on giving others the benefit of the doubt [and really mean it in your mind] and deal with your attitude towards others, and finally if you feel it’s appropriate to point it out to her, do so in a carefully worded and thought out way.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to bring out this important issue!
With Warmest Wishes,