Editorial: How to Communicate with People Who Mask Their True Selves

They smile at you, appear to be friendly, seem to have it altogether and most of all they seem just a bit too overjoyed to see you as they put their arms around you. Chances are you have felt uneasy around them although they have a bright, beautiful smile on their masked faces. The politician, preacher, mother, friend or foe are masters at wearing masked faces.

So what exactly is a "masked face"? It is a front, disguise or a well-rehearsed expression that appears on the face. Underneath it all these faces are crying inside. They are battling with past hurts, resentment, bitterness and anger. "I have to smile," they tell themselves. "Because I don't want the world to see my pain." As we all know, the world isn't kind to emotional people. We are uncomfortable around a man or woman crying. We try to "make light" of situations. We say uncompassionate things like, "Shake it off!" or "It isn't that bad." When in all actuality what hurt people are going through is really bad, and it shouldn't matter what you or me think, if they or us have to let tears go sometimes, then let go. Ever wonder why people turn to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sex and food for comfort? Because the world tells them, "No one cares." Why would anyone want to share his or her deepest feelings with a world that doesn't care?

Have you ever tried to share your feelings with your loved ones about your problems only to get a response of silence? Sometimes they are careful not to say anything for fear that they may say the wrong thing, but in other cases you know they were never really listening to begin with, when they grab their cell phone to make a call, pick up the remote control to the television and turn it on, or go out of their way to start speaking to someone else with that annoying "wait just a moment" gesture. Then your left standing there wishing you had never opened your mouth, because you feel worse than you did before you started talking.

have arrived at a conclusion in my analysis of the "masked faces" and that is they are no more special than you and me. You may have been envious initially when you first met them saying to yourself, "I wish I were more like her." She seems to have her life on track. However, that just might not be true. Then of course, there are those couples who will smile at everyone and affectionately hold one another, but at home are they really that way? Not always, with one in two marriages ending in divorce everyday, do you really believe it is happily ever after?

The next time a "masked face" that you assume is very much happy, yet you have this tugging in your spirit, gut or whatever you want to call it, take a moment with he or she and make small talk. Spend a little more time listening to them and watch, before long the hurt will show up in their eyes, because they really needed that moment of release. All the while as you witness their pain, encourage them to do something bigger than themselves. Ask the "masked face," the hard questions such as: What is your purpose for living? How would you like to be remembered if you died today or tomorrow? Remind them of the people they love and those who have gone on before them. Tell them your own personal story of triumph in hard times. Lastly, be careful of what you say and do, because this is a vulnerable moment with you that they will most likely remember for the rest of their lives. This isn't a time to kick a man while he is down. Avoid bragging and presenting yourself as the authority of life's solutions to problems.

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