Sometimes people will drop hints about how they are feeling or about something difficult that’s going on in their lives, but they don’t elaborate or say enough to explain themselves. When that happens, it is easy to ignore what they said, pretending they weren’t heard, or that the implications of what they were saying to you passed you by. Sometimes, we ignore such things because we don’t want to be categorized as a snoop—one of those people who love to dig into people’s problems, find out all the gory details, and gossip, gossip, gossip. Sometimes, we feel overwhelmed by the problems absorbing our own emotional energy and think we have nothing left over for sympathizing with anyone else’s problems. Sometimes, we are judgmental about the people dropping hints with us, because we think they should just do something differently and stop “whining.” None of those options are in the least bit kind. Not at all. And none of them are the way we would want to be treated if we were calling out for help by dropping hints to our friends in our time of need and fear.
A little kindness shown to people when they “drop a hint” about their struggles might prevent them from unnecessary suffering and might offer them the encouragement or support that they desperately need at that moment. Most often we only need to ask, “What do you mean by that?” or “How are you really doing?” or “Why do you say that?” or another question to elicit their response when we hear a hint of this kind dropped in a conversation. Then, the kind thing is to listen to what the person says and take it to heart, by helping them in a practical way (if that is appropriate) and remembering what the person said and perhaps following it up the next time that you see him or her (“How is your husband—wife, daughter, mother, child—doing? I was wondering if she/he/they found a job—recovered from the accident, finished the project,” etc.).
Of course, obviously, there are times that people’s problems are much more serious than you can really do anything about, but even then, offering the hope that another person is listening and caring about them is, at least, offering kindness into what is probably a very harsh point in that person’s life. No one will probably “solve” the person’s problems and indeed, it’s important to realize that no one person can “fix things,” but one person might point him or her to a source of help. Let them know that someone is noticing that dropped hint.