Skillful speech and helping friends

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Skillful speech and helping friends

Postby Alobha » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:32 pm

Hello everyone,

the partnership of a friend of mine just ended a few weeks ago. She was dumped in a rather harsh manner by him without giving any reason. While she still has quite a hard time, i try to cheer her up in several ways: I offer to hang out with her to have a good time, i listen to her thoughts and i gently encourage her to gain a quite positive attitude towards things.
I can see how helpful the teachings of the Buddha have been here for me and her in this situation. It is more helpful to stay in the present and not get caught in thoughts about the past. She's slowly coming to a point where she can look forward again and i welcome that :)

However, skillful speech is sometimes difficult here. I don't want to talk in a divisive manner (which i don't) - i don't tell her that anger or towards her ex-boyfriend is good - i rather try to raise understanding for him and that he's just a person who does mistakes like everyone else.
And that's a point: I don't feel like her mind might be open for this kind of skillful speech yet - I think quite often people just want to hear something like "oh yes, your anger is totally justified and he is really the bad guy you think he is." - It's these situation where i prefer just not to talk at all. Because if in doubt - "just don't".

Maybe you know these situations and can tell me what you tend to say. Do you tell friends when their thoughts are going to an unskillful direction or do you just leave it at that?

Best wishes,
Alobha
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Re: Skillful speech and helping friends

Postby Dan74 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:25 am

It depends whether she is open to your advice.

Mostly people just wish for a sympathetic ear in situations like these and one of the best attitudes you can have is one called by great psychologist, Carl Rogers, unconditional positive regard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_positive_regard

Given this unconditional positive regard, the mind find its way remarkably well and when she is ready she may even ask for your views and advice.

The best way is to be the kind of a person whom others would ask "how do you do it?" I know people are generally too proud to admit that they could do things better or in a different way but teaching by example is still the most effective way, I feel.
_/|\_
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Re: Skillful speech and helping friends

Postby ErnestineV » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:58 am

I think you're handling this very well...you aren't commenting when you know what she is fishing for is a support of her negative view of her ex. As you know, part of skillful speech is knowing when to say nothing at all. At the same time, you have to be cautious not to be seen as condescending or playing the role of "teacher" when what she wants is a friend and a sympathetic ear. If silence won't do, and you need to say something, you can commiserate with how she felt or how awful it was for her. She is wounded right now, and needs validation for her own feelings. As she is already on her way to coming out of that stage, it won't be too long before she will be more open to hearing her partner's side of things, and she may even bring it up herself.

Just keep being there for her, give her time to heal and let her know you understand.

Sounds like she is very lucky to have a friend like you.

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