When was the last time you heard news about a friend in need? Regardless of the cause, whether an unexpected diagnosis, difficult divorce, crippling accident, financial hit, or devastating loss, I would guess you had the same internal response, “I wish there was something I could do.”
That begs the question, what did you do?
Too often, we let our discomfort with knowing exactly what to say stand in the way of offering love, sympathy, or help. Do any of these sound familiar?
“I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so I didn’t say anything at all.”
“I wish I knew how to help.”
“I didn’t want to bring it up and upset them.”
Notice the focus of these statements — they are primarily centered on the person making the comment, the “I”, rather than on the person for whom care is intended. When our thoughts are on our own struggles or discomforts in addressing the issue, we neglect the goal of providing comfort or help for the person who is actually in need.
Would it be helpful if I gave you a few tips for your communications with friends in NEED?
Communicating happens in many ways, and as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Years ago, when my husband called our best friends to inform them I had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, Debbie immediately picked up the phone and called me. We cried together and she said, “I wish I were there to give you a big hug!”
Then, 50 miles and an hour later, Debbie showed up at my door and we cashed in on that hug. She told me she didn’t know what to do to help, but she wanted me to know I was loved. I don’t remember what goodies were in the basket she brought, or the precise words she said, but the fact that she just came will stay with me forever.
Show empathy by putting the feelings of your first friend. You can do this by asking yourself, “How would I feel if…” and imagine yourself in their position. Feel the emotions they could be experiencing, and then reach out with support.
Use Simple Swaps for more effective and compassionate communications.
Don’t pretend to know what someone else is going through or how they feel.
Regardless of what you believe, do not downplay their experiences, write them off, or assume you know how they feel.
When you really want to offer help, let them know how you are willing to help.
By offering a few specific choices, you let the person know you are serious about helping, and you are indicating how you feel you can be helpful. They will never call you on their own, especially if they have no idea what you would actually be willing to help with. If you are serious, you can demonstrate it by using the right words.
When it comes to offering your sympathy, be specific.
Keep the personality of your relationship intact in your communications. If you are always teasing and joking, don’t turn suddenly serious, or vice versa.
Change Your Words, Change Your World.
With a little practice, simple swaps, and specificity, your changed words can change the world for your friends in need.