The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Maria Friedman, 62, says never assume you know betterActor Maria Friedman, 62, says she learnt her great mantra from her dying friendLondon-based actor says that we all answer for others thinking we know betterShe says that we all should listen carefully to what people are asking for
Three-time Olivier Award-winning actor Maria Friedman, 62, is best known for her West End roles in Chicago and The Woman In White. She won over a new audience when she joined the cast of EastEnders, playing Elaine Peacock. She lives in London with her actor husband, Adrian Der Gregorian, 42, and her sons aged 28 and 20.
My great mantra came from my best friend. When she was dying from a brain tumour, people — including me — kept speaking on her behalf. Eventually she said: ‘You’ve got to stop this, I’m able to deal with these things myself.’
She was a brilliant human being, teacher and mentor. Near the end I said to her: ‘Could you give me one piece of advice that mankind would benefit from? But me, particularly?’ And she said: ‘Yes, never assume.’ Think about the amount of times you answer for somebody else or decide something for them, thinking it’s in their best interest, but without really listening.
Actor Maria Friedman, 62, (pictured) says she learnt her great mantra from her dying friend. London-based actor says that we all answer for others thinking we know better
I make that mistake three or four times a week, then I pull myself up and think: ‘Just ask the person what they want.’
And when they do answer, I realise the decision I was going to make wasn’t the one they’d choose.
You should always listen to what someone really wants rather than saying slightly passive aggressively: ‘Well, I was only trying to help you.’
In my experience, deep friendships are forged when people listen well. Help has to be what someone needs.
We all worry that asking for something will be too much for someone else or that we might be a burden. But actually, it’s a privilege to help people.
When my husband and I had Covid, we put it on our neighbourhood app. We’re not normally very sociable with our neighbours but they completely stepped in. Everybody said: ‘What do you need? Can we get you something? This is why we’re here.’ Somebody walked the dog and another person got us Night Nurse.
If we can have the courage to show fallibility and say, ‘I might need some help’, people step up and life goes better.
Maria Friedman stars in A Journey To The Past at Lyric Theatre, London, on September 12 (thelyrictheatre.co.uk).
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