This may seem like an odd statement but I’ve found that people are uncomfortable being so close to unemployment. And the fact is you now personify that concept. Some people will handle it well but most will want to “fix” you and start blathering out “helpful” ideas. They’ll quiz you on what you’re doing about it. “What’s your strategy,” they’ll ask with deep concern. They’ll look at you with sad, helpless eyes. They may awkwardly change the subject to something more upbeat, vaguely say they’ll connect you with someone they know, or just wander off. For us it’s a very strange thing to watch and if you are not careful their discomfort becomes yours. Avoid this.
A good analogy in this respect would be to view unemployment like a fatal disease. Think about it. You go up to an old friend and blithely say, “How’s life?” only to be hit by the news that your friend is dying. You are introduced to someone new and ask, “What do you do?” “Nothing because I will be dead in 6 months.” You just don’t expect that. A throw away question becomes an issue of life and death. You become embarrassed and blurt out a vague offer of help. You ask what they are doing about it, change the subject, or just make an excuse and walk away feeling stupid. You might even get irritated at the other person for throwing something so heavy on you when you were just making polite conversation. You will avoid them in the future.
From the point of view of the average, employed person, unemployment and terminal illness have things in common. They’ve heard of it and know how terrible it must be but they aren’t really personally affected by it. They don’t really like to think about it because its too nebulous and scary. They see statistical reports about it on the news and hear interviews with weeping victims but the commercials come on and the thought is brushed aside. Being so close to someone in that situation brings home the whole subject and that reminds them of their own mortality.
So try to grasp why people might feel and react as they do and remember that once you beat this you will have a depth of understanding that will make you a deeper person. You will move from sympathy to empathy. The exact type of person who can be of great help to the next person who answers your question with, “I’m unemployed.”
This is one of my fundamentals of unemployment.