25 November, 2009

this is a comment I made on someone's livejournal

I don't think you should try to talk to your friends "the way friends talk to each other." Passing for normal is all very well in situations that don't require sincerity, like ordering takeout or hanging out with someone you don't know very well. But I feel like if it's a more close situation where someone is talking about their problems, you shouldn't try to have a socially appropriate reaction, you should just work hard at being respectful and supportive.

For me this means that if the person is venting I will just listen and be interested in it (I mean, I do think people's problems are interesting, especially if they're my friend, so this isn't hard). If they seem to have a more "fuck, this so horrible, I don't know what to do" attitude instead of just wanting to express themselves, I'll try to make suggestions about how to make the situation better, asking them questions so I can better understand what's going on.

I didn't have many good friends until like two or three years ago so I thought all this stuff was overwhelming. But it got easier and now isn't really that hard for me. Of course, I'm not trying to act normal; I guess the normal way to comfort someone/listen to their problems might involve modulating my voice in a certain way, being more physically affectionate, and asking more questions than are necessary, just to "show that I care." If I was trying to act normal, I'd probably do a lot worse. But I also think that acting normal would be wrong and I wouldn't be being a good friend if I wasn't being sincere with someone when they are being sincere with me.

I don't know if this is at all helpful. I just think that "doing what people do" is a good and useful thing but only at certain levels. And I think that when you get to a talking about problems level, you should be able to act non-standard, and if the person is a good person, they should understand.

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