What we need to hear when we feel alone and misunderstood

My friend Trent sent a message the other day that said, “Things Trent is learning right now that may or may not help…” It got me to thinking and to asking.

What am I learning right now that may or may not help the friends around me?

Right now I’m learning the importance of the phrase “Me too.”

Like when a different friend called to rant about his dad. He said he didn’t feel his father understand him (Honestly, he was doubtful if his dad even cared to try understanding my friend.) He said his dad is difficult to talk with and he tries to force himself into my friend’s life. The phone call went on for quite a few minutes until there was silence. And, isn’t that silence the most important part of every conversation?

My friend had just unleashed his most true thoughts and feelings into the receiver. It was my job not only to value that instance vulnerability but also to let my friend feel accepted.

I knew the words to say: “Me too.”

I think it was liberating for both of us. Surely, it felt freeing to say.

Now, I could have told my friend about the psychological reasons his dad might act this way. I could have walked through ways to cope — which I’m now learning means: to numb — with the ordeal. I could have even offered to talk to his dad for him. But that wasn’t what he was looking for. When we’re struggling enough to call a friend and open our heart, often times I don’t think we’re looking for a solution.

When our heart is open, I think — more than anything else — we’re looking for someone to say we are understood.

My dad and I have — like every parent and child — had times where we don’t get alone. (Fortunately, my dad and I are currently closer than we’ve ever been in my life.) Of course, I’ve argued and made up with plenty of friends, colleagues and mentors.

But in the midst of the argument or the silent-treatment, I don’t readily remember that all my friends go through this as well. I feel isolated. I feel alone.

But I know to pick up the phone and call someone who will say, “Me too.”

Me too says, You’re not alone in this.

Because being alone is a scary place for everyone and it’s our job to help those we care about now feel alone.