When someone we love is going through hard times, it is natural to want to fix things for them; to make things somehow “better”. However, that isn’t always what they want.
When we aren’t sure of what’s needed, the best solution is often the simplest:
1. Acknowledge their feelings: “That sounds hard/crappy/tiring/etc.”
2. Then, be available to listen: “Do you want to tell me about it?”
And be equally available to not listen or to schedule time to talk later if they aren’t ready to talk yet.
3. Finally, identify the thing(s) that would be useful to them: “How can I help?”*
*When I first shared this cheat sheet, one of the comments was that when people are deeply hurting, they may not always know exactly what they need. This is a good point. If your friend or loved one doesn’t know, here is good time to start offering different possibilities:
- “Can I bring you dinner this evening?”
- “Can I mow your lawn?”
- “Do you want to go throw rocks at the beach with me?”
- Be creative…
And often, once you start offering, they may have a better idea of what would feel supportive to them. In any case, it’s a good way to start the conversation, and so much more productive than the other things people often say.
Notes for the Support Team:
A good cheat sheet for pretty much situation in which another human is upset:
“That sounds hard.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
“How can I help?”