Friends. How well do they really know you?

Have you ever been asked the question “What would you want your friends to say about you at your funeral“? It’s the sort of question we’re sometimes asked on training courses aimed at understanding how well we know ourselves, and it’s one of those embarrassingly awkward questions which modesty or lack of self-confidence prevents us from answering truthfully.

In the past year I have attended three funerals – elderly relatives and friends who had been ill for a while and whose time was finally up. On each occasion, I learned far more about them through listening to their eulogies than I ever did during their lives.


[Image courtesy of]

Strange, isn’t it? How can it be possible to learn more about someone in a five or ten minute speech about them after their deaths, than we ever knew through “knowing” them as friends or relatives? It just goes to show how shallow our understanding actually was – even if we thought exactly the opposite.

I can’t see the real reason for this, but I suspect we’re all to blame.

  • Perhaps we’re not asking enough questions about each other. Maybe for fear of being seen to intrude or being over-inquisitive (“nosy”).
  • Maybe we’re not great at shouting about our own achievements – somehow a reluctance to be heard blowing our own trumpets?
  • Is it a “time” thing? We’re too busy worrying about ourselves to ask questions about our friends and relatives.
  • Maybe we’re asking plenty of questions, but they’re the wrong ones – about little inconsequential things, rather than mining for real value-adding nuggets.
  • Or is it that we’re only ever getting little snippets of information, drip-fed over time, and we never put them all together to see the bigger picture – until the time we’re preparing a eulogy?
  • Perhaps spending quality time with each other is what’s needed, and we’re just not doing that.
  • Sharing experiences is one of the best ways of getting to know someone, but maybe we’re all too busy to be doing that these days?

Have I missed anything here? Are there other reasons?

My personal takeaway is that there is plenty of scope for improving my own understanding of friends and relatives – their achievements, their loves, their fears, their worries and their struggles. What about their early lives, their aspirations, their glorious failings and victorious conquests?

Better to spend quality time getting to know these things while I still can, than to forever wonder and guess. After all, I’m sure they would be delighted to share their stories – if only someone would ask them.

Whilst researching for this post, I found the following great advice at

Even if you don’t go quite that far, I’d suggest our lives would be richer through really knowing and appreciating our friends and relatives while they’re still with us.


Feel free to comment on this post – I’d be interested to hear your views.
Inixiti – Improving graduate employability. Click here to visit the website.


3 thoughts on “Friends. How well do they really know you?

  1. Thanks for this post. I believe that it’s extremely important to share our stories and to listen to the stories of as many people that will share with us:-) I feel honored when someone trusts me enough to open their heart and reveal their true self with me.

  2. Pingback: It’s hard to talk about this | earlyinitiative

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