I got a wake up call this morning from a dear friend who posted the above on Facebook. As she is a frugal poster I was intrigued to see what she had written. I don't think she'll mind me sharing it with you as it made me sit up and take stock of who I might be neglecting or overlooking because they appear to have it all together or because I'm distracted with my own problems. After reading it, I wondered if she was talking about herself as she is a a strong, caring and very kind person who readily gives of herself to all her fiends and family. It made me wonder what type of friend I was and was I taking her and others for granted.
So how do we shake off the apathy and open our eyes to the needs of those around us? How do we show genuine care and concern without being intrusive and pushy? A difficult line to tread with those we love and those who appear unloved.
10 things I think I can do to help a Friend in Need.
- Listen to the other person. Often times when we are communicating with others we focus on what we want to say when they finish speaking so we don't really hear what they are trying to communicate. Or we are thinking about something else altogether. I know I've been on the phone to a friend and I've been thinking the whole time about what I'm going to cook for dinner. I remember a classic example of this occurred one day when a group of friends got together to fund raise for a good cause. We had been hard at it for a couple of hours and were really making great progress. During the business of the day she received a phone call from another lady. I could hear my friend using hum, yeah and that's great - when the phone call was suddenly cut short. When she got off the phone she told us she had said "yeah that's great" when the caller had said her daughter had just broken her arm. Ooops - she had defiantly been distracted during that call. You can imagine embarrassing that was for my friend and how unheard the other lady felt.
- Just be there and Observe: Look for signs that might indicate that your friend is going through a rough patch such as snappy, hanging our less or withdrawn.
- Discuss what matters to others for awhile. Put your own interests on hold. People appreciate it when others clear time and space (not talking or doing anything) to enable them to open up. It demonstrates that you care about them and what they have to say matters. It's difficult for someone to disclose their troubles if you rushing out the door as they speak.
- Encourage your friend to talk through your verbal and non verbal language. That is, use an open posture and look like your are interested in what they are saying. Use minimal encourages such as um,, yes and head nods. Remember to ask open ended questions to help your friend explore their issues in greater depth and to reflect back what you understood them to have said.
- Don't Judge: Sometimes what is a mountain to one person is a mole hill to another. We should not be making a judgement about the validity of the problem based on our own subjective assessment of the situation. the other thing people do and I've been caught our too is to say: "that's nothing compared to what I'm going through" or " So and so also had that problem and they did..." Stay focused on your friend and the issues she/he is having right now.
- Offer suggestions if appropriate: Remember if you're offering advice to be sensitive to their needs. You are not their mother or boss so don't go ordering them about. Also as we are all different so are our responses to different situations.
- Check in regularly: Don't just hear the problem and then assume that it's all fine and dandy just because you heard about it once. Keep in touch, in person or by electronic devices, to keep abreast of how your mate is coping or if things have improved or gotten worse.
- Don't gossip: Your friend has shared their story and pain with you not the whole world. It's their issues and up to them to discuss with others if they please. Don't assume that just because someone else appears to know about it that they know it all. Keep you mouth closed unless they are placing themselves or others safety at risk.
- Encourage your friend to seek professional help if the issues are beyond the type of support you can offer.If you believe that your friend is suffering from anxiety, depression or may be considering suicide then encourage therm to seek help. More information on these topics can be gained from the Beyond Blue webpage.
- Step Out of Your Comfort ZONE: Reach our to others that need help that you don't know by:
- Pay forward
- Doing a random act of Kindness
I'd love for your ideas on helping friends when they are feeling down. What has worked for you? What has been some definite No No's?