These days most of us are a part of numerous groups on social media – Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media. Different groups ranging from mommy and school groups to hobby ones to recipes to health and fitness ones. Often on these groups you come across people sharing their deepest problems and fears. Whats fascinating is how participants on the group reach out with help, support or kind words. It is heartwarming to see such interactions between strangers with no hidden agenda.
You find people talking about their shortcomings and fears openly. And it appears that strangers who don’t know them, identify with their problems and listen (or read) without any prejudice.
People appear to be so compassionate and helpful to an online community which makes you wonder why the same is not practiced in our real world relationships. The practice seems to be bi-directional the same people would not share these fears with their near and dear ones. And nor would they react the same way as they would to a stranger online. Why is it that sometimes despite having family and friends one still looks out for that someone to share their deepest feelings with? Why is it that one can be so open about everything with counselors who they don’t know and not with people who know them well?
These observations and questions are something that we are all aware of. So I thought of doing a small survey to see if my thoughts matched with others. Here few of the points that came out very strongly.
Being judged or “what will they think?”
This is the first and foremost fear expressed by almost everyone who I talked to about this. Judging people is something that comes to us so unknowingly.
At the mall you see a child behaving badly and the mom calmly tries to explain to the child but the baby refuses to listen- our mind forms an opinion instantaneously –“this mom is not able to control her child”. Similar situation and the mom shouts at the child and probably gives a light spanking – “can’t she be a bit gentle with the child”. Working moms – “her career is more important than her kids”, stay at home mom – “shes got no ambition” and the list is endless.
What happens here is when we interact with people we know there are already certain images and expectations that we have of one another. Thus, the fear of being judged makes the person who wants to share their weakness think twice before opening up. If the person decides to share something, often as a listener if our thought processes differ we immediately form a judgement in our mind. This inherent social condition that has been happening for ages comes as a first instinct and would need some amount of conscious effort to stop.
Fear of being talked about
This is the other factor that plays and important role in people not wanting to share with known people. We’ve all heard numerous jokes about women and gossip and how women love to discuss about one another. Well, again here while society has labeled the gossiping trait to women, there are numerous studies which prove men equally guilty of the same as well.
We all know it’s wrong to gossip, and no one wants to seem malicious. So why do we indulge in this guilty pleasure? Gossip builds social bonds because shared dislikes create stronger bonds than shared positives. Two people who don’t know each other will feel closer if they share something mean about a third person than if they say nice things about them. It’s a way of demonstrating their shared values and sense of humor. Add to that the thrill of transgression, since we’re supposed to be nice and positive. Studies show that ‘about 60 per cent of conversations between adults are about someone who isn’t present, and most of these are passing judgement.’
Not wanting to be labelled as weak
So, is there something that we can do to change the way we think and be enablers and helpers for everyone – people we know and those we don’t? While the answer to this is very simple – Don’t judge, avoid gossip, don’t pull down people using their weaknesses etc., implementing this is not so. It would involve self-examination, conscious change in thought process as well as self-control.
When you come across situations try to think positive first instead of negative. If your boss is in a bad mood – “he might be having a tough situation at home, let me see how I can help him and make it easier here”. If someone is talking animatedly on the phone “maybe she’s trying to resolve an argument with someone, let me give her space” instead of trying to eavesdrop. Give people the benefit of doubt, listen to their point of view. It is not necessary for two people to have the same thought process or the same way to handle any situation. Respect others methods of doing things even if they do not match yours.
Once we decide to stay positive there’s no stopping us. You can always tell who the strong women are – they are the ones you see building one another instead of tearing each other down. Her success is not your failure!!