Recently I caught up with a couple of close friends for an evening of fish & chips, chat and trash T.V. We shared funny stories, laughing at ourselves and each other. Then, quite naturally we were sharing some of the challenges that we were each facing. We listened, empathised and shared how we had coped in similar situations. As always I left feeling fortunate to have such good friends in my life. I was then reminded of something my local tailor, the wonderful Mr Chiodo had said to me- ‘Matthew, People don’t take the time to talk anymore’. He felt that a big factor as to why so many people have emotional and psychological problems, is that they don’t have anyone to have the kind of deep and honest conversations that matter most.
Mr Chiodo was telling me how back in his day, in Italy, you would talk to your friends about anything. You would have long conversations. You were honest. You would laugh and you would cry. You could do this because you were with friends. This meant that you could talk about anything, you would share, be supportive and most importantly, you would listen as well as be heard. Mr Chiodo felt that now days too many friendships are superficial. We seem to call call everyone we come into contact with- a friend, yet what does that mean? (I won't even go into how social media like Facebook/Myspace/Twitter etc, have warped what the term 'friend' means, or how they have corrupted the concept of what 'social contact' is). A great point that Mr Chiodo makes is that we may not spend more than a few minutes at a time talking to these 'friends' and more importantly, so many of our conversations are held on a very superficial level. We claim that we don't have time to talk. The truth is that people seem less inclined to 'make' time for those important and deep conversations. As a ‘helping professional’ I have to agree with him. So many ‘clients’ I come into contact with are isolated and really just need some supportive friendships, those deep, trusting, open and honest friendships. They need, as we all do, someone to really talk to about what is going on. Sadly, building and maintaining these types of friendships seems to be a lost art form. Which may be good for drumming up business for the ‘helping professionals’, but is it good for us as a society? We could theorise about how we got here, did it start with urbanisation? Were we doomed the moment we left our small towns and villages, thus often leaving our kinship groups behind as well. We moved to larger cities that seemed to cloak us in anonymity, and in doing so, isolated us. Suddenly we are no one and we know no one. Maybe we have become scared to reach out and to be open, perhaps through fear of rejection or judgement. Maybe we are scared to listen? fearing that if someone told us how they really felt, we wouldn’t know what to do to ‘fix’ it. The truth is we often only need to listen, to let that other person know that they have been heard and heard without judgement. I have no idea how we as a community re-connect to each other in a deeper way, I am just putting this 'out there'. Maybe in thinking the thought, change will manifest itself? Maybe not. Maybe we need to show others this skill? To teach it where it is not familiar and where it has become forgotten, perhaps we just need to a gently remind.
My thoughts return to Mr Chiodo, wonderful tailor and wise person. I realise that each time I go in to have something altered, we spend 30-60 mins chatting. I am grateful for his generosity as he shares his experiences as well as his wisdom. I am grateful as he reminds me of what honest communication looks like and that it is safe to do this outside of my close friendship group. We laugh, we talk seriously, we listen and in turn are heard. I am left feeling like the luckiest person on earth for not only have great friends I can really talk to, but for also having met Mr Chiodo, tailor and teacher who reminds me and models for me, how to communicate honestly, deeply and in a healthy way that really matters.