I ran into a somewhat awkward situation the other day. To give a little background, I do a lot of networking, so I am meeting new people almost every day. This particular day, I approached a small group of fellow networkers, people I already know, who were in “good morning” mode – asking each other how their weekend was, anything new going on, how was the graduation party for your son? One of the individuals is a customer of mine. I asked them, “How are you doing on the product?” and their response was “if I was any better I’d have to kill myself.” We were five people, quietly talking to each other. Silence swept through like a sudden wind. “Awkward” is the best way to describe my feelings and probably the feelings of others who were standing there. Obviously feeling the awkwardness as well, one of the individuals stepped up and tried to counter the “kill myself” statement with a more positive saying. We all know that once something is said, it is said. You can never take words back.
Being the survivor of suicide, of course this statement got my attention. How do I feel about it? I talked about how I felt with this person later, because they actually called me that afternoon to apologize. Knowing me well and knowing I had been affected by suicide, they couldn’t believe they came out with that statement. This was truly a lesson learned.
I thanked this person for calling me and told them this was not the first time in the last three years someone has said something like that. In fact, how many people do you see mimic holding a gun to their head when they’re feeling frustrated or angry? It happens often. Maybe, again, I see it or notice it more because of my experience. Am I sensitive to that? I don’t call it sensitivity – I call it awareness. As quickly as I felt the awkwardness, I let it go. My response to the call that afternoon was to explain that this is not the first time something has been said or done that could be uncomfortable for me or others in my shoes. I have made a conscious decision to use a situation such as this to help others. You see, I cannot expect everyone to be walking on egg shells in my presence. I have too big of a heart and feel too much joy, and I want to share that with others. However, if they had made such a statement in front of someone else, the results could have been disastrous. I suggested that in the future they think about using different “words” to describe their enthusiasm for life. This person was very appreciative of my understanding, and I feel that it has strengthened our relationship.