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TROUBLESHOOTER / My friend is angry about my reaction to her sickness

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 50s. I need your advice about my relationship with a friend from elementary school. She underwent a medical checkup and was found to have a disease. She told me and another friend of hers that she will have surgery for the condition.

I told her: “It must be very hard, but please take care of yourself. All I can do is listen, but you can contact me anytime you want.”

She suddenly got angry and said: “How can you be so cold? You should have more sympathy, and discuss things with me. I want you to think about many things with me.”

I didn’t understand what she meant and was speechless with amazement.

It seems she doesn’t get along with her husband, so I think her heart might have been full of fear. But she has a grown child with a job, so I thought I shouldn’t pry — no matter how close we are.

I know I sometimes speak in a sharp tone,which I regret. Could you give me some advice — I don’t know how I should behave when she contacts me.

O, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. O:

When people are diagnosed with a disease and must undergo surgery, they become extremely insecure. It’s difficult for such people to act normally.

I think your friend got angry as a result of stress due to fear. She likely didn’t mean what she said to you.

You shouldn’t speak in negative terms to a person with such fears. After hearing you say that all you could do is listen, your friend must have felt desolate. Even if you couldn’t give her the exact words she wanted, you could have said, “Tell me more,” or “I’ll think about this with you.” If you’d said that, she might have been reassured.

This applies to daily life too. For example, I have a short nose. I’ve been a bit concerned about it since I was a child.

If I was told in a negative way, “You have a short nose,” I’d be offended. But if someone spoke positively, saying something like, “You have a lovable face,” that would make me feel good. They mean the same thing, though.

She spoke to you about her disease, which means you’re an important person to her, someone she can open up to.

Please contact her instead of waiting for her to get in touch with you. I advise you to listen to her, and encourage her in a positive way — I think that’s the best medicine for her right now.

Akemi Masuda, sports commentator

(from Jan. 27, 2019, issue)Speech

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