‘I am here for you’: Say these five words to those you care about — and then back it up
One of our greatest challenges is our inability to live with uncertainty. I almost always want to know where I’m going and the path I’m taking before I set out on a journey.
However, that is rarely the way life works out. Even when your smartphone tells you how long a trip will take and where the turns are, there are dozens of ways it can go wrong.
Few things in life start at one point and go directly to the hoped-for outcome. We know this, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting things to go exactly the way we planned. And when they don’t, we are disappointed at best and all too often devastated by the unplanned outcome.
Research shows that uncertainty can be catastrophic in many situations. In a war, not knowing when and where the bombs will fall can create psychological scarring for a lifetime. The same is true for a child or spouse who is abused and never knows when violence will erupt again.
Even for those of us whose lives are more settled, uncertainty can cause anxiety. We may worry a child with a serious illness could get sick again. If we fell once and got hurt, we’re anxious about falling again. In business, economic uncertainty can be emotionally destructive: Will this strategy work? Will I have a job next month?
Curiously, the possibility that something bad might happen hurts us more than knowing for sure it will.
Walid Afifi, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied the impact of uncertainty on our human psyche and concluded that certainty around one thing can stave off the ill effects of not knowing, even in the most trying of circumstances.
That certainty is this: The person you care most about also cares for you.
This truth doesn’t need to extend beyond one person for the impact to be profound.
So with this understanding, I charge you to do one thing over during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Find at least one person in your life who depends on you for love, and tell the person these five words Afifi suggests: “I am here for you.”
That’s it. That’s all it takes. Say it, then back it up, so the person knows you mean it.
This simple statement will give the person the strength needed to work through any challenges with uncertainty. It will also focus you on being certain you will maintain your commitment.