I couldn't believe it: He is crying! My forty-something-year-old friend is crying.
He lost his job.
The reason for his sadness is understandable, but I am still in shock that he's crying.
How to comfort him? What to say or do when your friend is crying in the middle of a busy downtown street?
At times like these, when everyone is under tremendous pressure of losing their jobs, it's not easy to be positive and give any kind of advice.
I had no choice: I must help him. What can I say when his family is waiting for his support?
"Put a smile on your face?" Ridiculous! In this state of the economy, many people are struggling to maintain everyday life, and my friend is just one of the thousands of people in a similar position. Would this fact be a comfort to him? I don't think so.
What tools do I have, except the words?
"I'm totally out of control of my life," said Mike, "I don't care what you or anybody else is going to say. I'm at the bottom."
"I can't change the picture of the events," I commented carefully, "but I can try to help you to see the same picture through different eyes, in a new perspective, hoping to provide you with a good motivation to move on with your life."
"I'm at the bottom, didn't you hear me?" asked Mike.
"I can hear you, but because you are at the bottom, you have just one direction: To go up!"
"Are you kidding me?" mumbled Mike.
"No, I'm not kidding you, I am giving you the facts," I said.
Two years ago I was laid off, and I can understand your pain, fear and anger. Unbelievable pressure comes with such a situation. You have just one option: Pick yourself up. By picking yourself up and believing in yourself, you can move on. Without self-help, you'll stay at "the bottom" forever. What you need is not self-pity, but strength. You have a choice. It's up to you to make decisions about how to move on: As a man who has responsibility and the capability to make it happen, or as person who is going to complain how "life is unfair." Your family doesn't care if life is fair or not. They want to see you as a brave father and husband."
"Empty words," was his comment.
"Listen, Mike, I don't care about your bad comment. I do care about you and your wonderful family. May I ask you something?
From your viewpoint, what is the solution for your situation?"
"I don't know," was his answer.
"I do not know are empty words, trust me, not words of support. What are you expecting me to say? How poor you are? Is that supportive? I understand and accept your weeping, but I do not accept your hopelessness. All these emotions and tears are a natural reaction to your current situation, but hopelessness shouldn't be your natural reaction. Is it clear?"
"What are you expecting from me in this situation?" Mike asked again.
"What I'm expecting from you is very simple: To understand and accept your position and why you feel the way you do, and more importantly, to do something about it. Only your own action and your own feelings will bring you the job, not my words or anybody else's words, only action. Your future is in your hands, not in my words. Inner peace will come with action, from your self- confidence and faith in your ability, and definitely from your desire to help your family. Am I right?"
"I have no comments whatsoever," was Mike's response.
"May I continue, Mike?"
"I am asking you, on behalf of your family and your friends, not to bring negative emotions of guilt and shame to your feelings.
If you do so, your emotional health will be in jeopardy, not just your bank account. These emotions will only bring you a vague way of thinking, putting more stress on top of everything. Blaming yourself won't change the circumstances and will definitely make you feel sick, emotionally and physically, as well."
Surprisingly, Mike asked, "What's your suggestion?"
My response was: "You need to make two huge investments: The very first one is to invest in your emotional health. Being laid off can do some damage to your emotional well-being. Irritability, over-thinking and resisting will not help you in any way, nor will `what if' thinking. The only way of thinking should be positive, goal-oriented and taking a clear approach to any task at hand. Stay calm as much as you can (not an easy task, I know), and go for the very first opportunity.
The second investment is to invest your time in finding any possibility for any new employment. Your successes will be there for you, if you really know how to make these investments. Everything now depends only on you, not on the world's economy.
I have no more `empty words' for you, Mike."
If you, by any chance, visit my city, would you mind going to the downtown area?
At the corner of the busiest intersection in the city you'll see Mike's store, "Put a smile on your face."
Don't let him know you've heard this story.
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