I was recently featured in an article entitled, “10 things NEVER to Say to Someone With Cancer.” It’s a well written article and even got picked up by MSN.com … which is super exciting and awesome. I mean, I love the exposure, so no complaints there.
But, it got me thinking.
Then, I was on The Stupid Cancer Show podcast, yesterday. During my segment Matthew Zachary, the founder of Stupid Cancer, noted that Top 10 lists are what get the most traffic on the Internet today. He asked me if my book gave people a “top 10” of things to say or not say.
No. It doesn’t.
“While I don’t give a top 10 list,” I replied, “I think I give you the basis for figuring out what your personal Top 10 list is.”
This morning, I was still thinking about Top 10 Lists. I know. You can smell the smoke from the gears turning right?
Anyway, it dawned on me that Top 10 lists are so popular because they are fast and easy. I mean, if you just never say what’s in the “10 Things Never to Say to Someone With Cancer” article everything will be ok, won’t it? And, if you only say what’s in some “10 Things You Should Say to Someone With Cancer” article, everything will be ok, won’t it? If you just walk the path that others have laid … follow their advice and never deviate … everything will be ok, won’t it?
Well, No. It won’t, necessarily, be ok. Here’s why:
When someone is in a crisis, do you know what they are craving more than anything?
They want to be connected to the people around them. Emotionally. Physically (if possible).
They want to be connected to their families. To their caregiver. To their friends. And the thing is, connection is not something that either exists or it doesn’t.
Connection is something that can’t always be put into words. It takes effort to build — and can be torn asunder quickly in little time at all. Connection is what we crave as humans … I’d even argue it’s what makes us human.
To me, a Top 10 list is the anti-thesis of connection. Top 10 lists woo you into believing that if you just commit them memory you’ll never make a mistake.
And that’s just not realistic. In order to *really* connect with someone, you have to be willing to make mistakes sometimes … and to own up to those mistakes when they happen. That’s another part of the human condition folks. We do dumb stuff. And that’s ok.
Now, I’m not saying that Top 10 lists aren’t helpful because, they are. I mean, I read Top 10 lists ALL the time. But, they are not a replacement for emotional connection with someone. They are not a replacement for honesty and vulnerability. Top 10 lists are a resource, plain and simple. They’re something to take with a grain of salt as you evaluate how to best connect with the people in your life.
So, I’m not saying don’t read Top 10 lists. What I’m saying is, don’t take it as gospel. It’s not going to save you or your friendship. It might be a good place to start (or end) a conversation, but that’s about it. You still need to put in the work to maintain a connection with the people around you.
In the interest of delivering what I promise, though, here it is:
Top 10 Reasons You Don’t Need a Top 10 List:
10. You don’t need to limit yourself to 10 of anything. Live a little. You might even *gasp* “put it up to 11.”
(Thank you “This is Spinal Tap” for that gem.)
9. You are invested in the outcome of your interactions with other people. The writer of a Top 10 List is not (and cannot be as invested as you are because they don’t know you)! They have no idea what will work for your personal circumstances. So take all Top 10 lists with a grain of salt.
8. You probably already know what you’re going to read before you read it. (Most Top 10 Lists are recycled information from somewhere else. Obviously, this list is the exception to this rule.)
7. You are a problem solver. If life hands you lemons, don’t let other people tell you what to do with your lemons. Turn them into a rocket powered jet engine. Or squeeze them into your friend’s drink. Or, throw them out. You decide.
8. You have a style all your own. When you try to co-opt someone else’s communication style, it’s painfully obvious to those close to you. Be you – mistakes and all. Your relationships will thrive because of it, not in spite of it.
6. You know that building connection requires ACTION. Reading stuff on the Internet is PASSIVE. If you want to bond with someone, then ACT. Bond with them in the ways you already know how!
4. You know that life isn’t one-size-fits-all. Not all relationships are created equal. So, don’t pigeon hole your relationship into a Top 10 List.
3. You have an opportunity to create a connection. No one else can do that for you.
2. You don’t need the Internet. Even if you met on the Internet, only interact with this person on the Internet, think this person owns the Internet … the Internet is not what led you to establish a connection in the first place. Remembering why you wanted a connection in the first place can guide you.
So, am I totally off base here?! Do you live and die by Top 10 lists? Let me know in the comments!!