In Other Words with Dave – September 2020
It’s a rare case when the words I speak have an impact on someone’s life – at least that’s how it feels. When I replay important conversations I’ve had in the past, I think I should have used bigger words, more empathy or perhaps some research or fact-finding would have supported my point of view.
And then sometimes, you get it right.
Three decades ago, I was living six blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, CA. I had recently become unemployed and spent my days trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life and hanging around with an oddball group of friends and neighbors – also unemployed. One member of the “looking for work” crew was Dean. Dean seemed to have girlfriend problems quite often that would then turn to drinking-too-much problems.
On this one afternoon, Dean came to me upset and told me all about what she did, and that he’s had it up to here with her. And that he was going to the liquor store – as soon as it opened. I told him, why don’t you try not going to the liquor store this time – not exactly words of wisdom, merely a suggestion. I honestly don’t have any recollection of the conversation. But Dean remembered it vividly because he emailed me last month, recounted the exchange and thanked me for that incredibly simple moment of advice. That pivotal exchange of words turned into the beginning of his long term abstinence from alcohol. Crazy.
I’m not taking credit for Dean’s life change, he told me he had joined a 12-step program and done a lot of work to change how he lived. I’m just left thinking that our words have impact and a little kindness and caring, or even a little obvious advice from a friend can help someone. You never know.