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Why we all need to talk to each other more

When news broke on Twitter yesterday morning about Gary Speed I found myself unusually upset about his tragic passing.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely clueless about football, don’t follow a particular team and can count on one hand the amount of football players I could name.

Yet the shocking news that a man, admired by his peers and an inspiration to thousands, couldn’t see another way out really affected me.

One of the things that stuck with me the most were the comments from his close friends.  Nobody knew that he was feeling this way, that he put on a brave face right up until his death.  It’s truly scary to think that someone so close to the edge can suffer so silently.  It could be anyone, it could be the person sat next to you on the bus, it could be a close friend or, quite simply, it could be you.

The rise of social media has to some extent replaced the need for a simple conversation.  Many people now see a ‘like’ on a certain status as an acceptable way of keeping in touch with people.  We’re all guilty of it to some extent – I certainly know I am – but by using social media as an excuse for a conversation, what are we missing?

Stan Collymore tweeted a very real and telling insight into his own struggle with depression yesterday morning.  While we of course don’t know if this is the reason for Gary’s passing it’s a stark view into this disease that affects thousands of people.

So if you only do one thing this week, pick up the phone and speak to a friend – ask them how they are and make sure everything is ok.  Because as this terrible incident has shown, even the strongest of people struggle sometimes.

“You first” “No, you” “No, it’s fine, you go” “No, I insist”… and other socially awkward situations

Earlier this week I read Brendan Nelson’s article on the guardian, which looked at a game that many of us Londoners play on an almost daily basis – the seat acquisition game.

Brendan rightly points out that there are ‘underlying patterns that shape commuter behaviour’ – past experiences, things we’ve been taught from an early age.  I vividly remember crying my eyes out at the ripe old age of four when my mum made me stand up on a terrifyingly fast-moving bus* so that an elderly lady could sit down.  Oh the shame.

I think I’m overly aware of the ‘rules’ on public transport, and indeed in other areas of life.  And it’s this awareness that can lead to some quite frankly awkward social situations.  For example:

– The fat/pregnant debate – we will ALL fall foul of this at some point…

– The ‘elderly’ saga – at what age IS someone now classed as elderly? My colleague’s mum is in her early 60s, runs marathons like most of us would run errands and gets hugely offended when somebody offers her a seat on the train

– The ‘too polite for our own good’ dance – the to-ing and fro-ing of “you first” “no you” “no I insist” when trying to get through a door

– The ‘overfamiliarity’ complex – the point at which the lady in the gym, who up until now you’ve excahnged pleasantrys with on a frequent basis, finds it acceptable to take your relationship to the next stage and start drying his/her bits mid-conversation

We live our lives by so many rules, so I think I’ll start my own – take the lead, don’t stare and if in doubt, give up your seat and pretend you were getting off at the next stop anyway.

 

 

*It wasn’t moving THAT fast, I just think this was the first time I’d ever stood up on moving transport.  It’s quite freaky the first time you do it.