Don’t expect much from a drowning man. He’s not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your day was.
He’s too busy not drowning.
I come back to this post by Seth Godin at least once a week. It’s super short and takes less than a minute to read. Whenever I feel like someone did me wrong: was rude to me, treated me unfairly, or forgot about something important; I use it as a reminder it has nothing to do with myself, and everything to do with the battles that person is fighting.
They don’t even need to have it objectively worse than me, or anyone else. If someone feels like they’re drowning, no amount of logical explanation will make them change their mind. In the world as they see it, they are in danger, and they’ll use every opportunity to pull themselves out.
Having experienced how it’s like to feel like I’m drowning, I should understand people who are struggling with this. Still, when they’re shouting or using violent language the first instinct is always to read it as an attack and fight back. It takes a lot of mental space to see that someone swearing at me almost never puts me in any actual danger. And only when I know I’m not in danger, I can see that all this shouting is a very clumsy call for help, and be able to help them.
Seth Godin says, “Generosity begins by trusting ourselves enough to know that we’re not actually drowning.” When you feel like you’re drowning, you might think it’s not something you have much control over. But with a strong resolution, lots of courage, and some guidance and support, it’s certainly a skill you can develop.