When my aunt left one job for another, she told me she was so surprised by who reached out to her and who did not. When a friend recently got a new position, she told me she could not believe – or understand – why hardly anyone said anything to her after the announcement. When I had a bad experience in front of many people, I was kind of shocked by how few people checked in with me the next day.
I feel like I could write a book about this. My recent blog post – The Right Words at the Right Time – tells you why I think it matters to reach out – why it matters to always be the one who says, “I will miss you” or “It won’t be the same without you” when someone is leaving; why it matters to say, “That is so great for you that you are in a new role now. Congratulations!” when a colleague gets a new job; or why it matters to check with a friend who has weathered a hard situation by saying “I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay.”
And now, there are so many ways to do this that make it easier if it’s uncomfortable in person or by phone. There’s email, texting, social media to say nothing of a handwritten note. (That’s a blog post for another time!)
But, why don’t people do it when it is so easy?
I am going to make my guesses based on my own experiences:
- People do care, but they are not good at showing it. Another way to say this is that if people do not show you they care, it does not mean they don’t care. It is not easy to accept this, but I think it’s true.
- People are distracted and busy with regular life. It’s easy to forget to take the time to reach out. Reaching out means we have to think about others more than we think about ourselves and sometimes that is hard for people.
- People don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is not easy. People do not rush towards what is uncomfortable or hard. Without even realizing it, people prioritize feeling comfortable and having things feel easy over reaching out to others.
- People have no understanding of how much their words or gestures could make an impact on others.
- People think that others are reaching out and generally underestimate the value of their words or gestures (i.e., they may think, “Others are reaching out so it’s okay if I don’t.”)
So, what can you do?
- Show you care consistently and as a priority. Increase your awareness to be intentional on a consistent basis with the people who matter to you.
- Think about others are much as you can, and if you do get distracted, reach out when you finally can with no hesitation that some time has passed. It will always matter.
- Remember that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. It’s okay for things to be hard. We can do hard things. When things are happening, people aren’t looking for their friends, family or those who care about them to solve any problems. Mostly they are looking for people to show up and be empathetic. As Oprah once said, “All people want is for you to show up and say, ‘I don’t know what to say but I’m here.’”
- Understand that your words, your gestures AND YOU matter so much.
- Reach out even when you know others are doing the same. There is no capacity on caring words or generous feelings, on support and love, or on kindness. We can all benefit from this even if we are receiving a lot at one time.
I would love that the next time my aunt changes jobs, her story is, “It was so awesome that everyone reached out to me before I left” or for my friend who gets a new position to say, “So many people let me know how positive they thought this was and were happy for me.” Or, when something stressful happens, for people to connect with me after, reminding me people are feeling for me.