What does it take to cause a group of compassionate, intelligent individuals to begin shouting and attacking each other? In the case of a recent zoom call between a collection of my oldest friends, it was someone asking how everyone is doing.
Although this has been asked and answered every time we’ve connected, this time tempers started flaring among the group as the different responses highlighted broad gaps in how everyone was handling the current crisis, and people began challenging others’ feelings and opinions. Here’s a brief summary of the major complaints:
- Talking about positive effects of the lockdown was insensitive to people adversely affected by the crisis, and to those on the call who were having difficulty coping.
- Continuously focusing on how difficult things are is essentially demanding that everyone be anxious and miserable.
- People without children have it easy right now, and have no idea how stressful it is to be a parent right now.
- People with children should be grateful that they have a family to help them avoid extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation.
What was intended to be a supportive social interaction devolved with shocking speed into an angry venting of stress and frustration, directed not at the situation, but at each other. I wish I could say that I stayed out of it, but I’m going to be honest and tell you that when I felt attacked, I eventually struck back. To say that none of us were being our best selves would be a colossal understatement.
Thankfully, everyone agreed to take some time to cool off and then resume the call later. On the second try, we were able to talk about what had happened, and work through it together. I wanted to share some takeaways from that conversation:
- Our feelings are legitimate, and so are everyone else’s. We should neither attack others for their reactions, nor worry about criticisms of our own.
- Being supportive means listening without judgement, even when the other person’s words hit a nerve.
- Talking about who has it “the best” or “the worst” is a game where everyone loses.
One especially useful part of the conversation was when one friend quoted a line from a Matchbox 20 song: “I’m sorry about the attitude I need to give when I’m with you, but no one else will take this s*** from me”. From there, we agreed that it’s important to understand and forgive each other, but that we should also be careful how often we take advantage of that pledge.
In this time of high stress, I urge all of you to be patient, kind, and forgiving, but also to remember that your feelings, whatever they are, are legitimate and perfectly ok. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.
My comments section is a judgement free zone, so how are you doing?