3 simple ways to comfort someone who is struggling
2018 hasn’t started well for me. In fact, 2017 ended badly and the two are connected.
You see, I received some distressing news in December 2017 about my health but had to wait until mid January 2018 to have them confirmed by a specialist. Don’t worry, I am not dying yet and while things are serious, it is not hopeless.
I am still struggling to come to terms with my new reality so I am not ready to share far and wide what shitty thing I picked up along the way. But it’s not cancer or anything super life threatening. THAT is a good thing!
Regardless of that though, I noticed how different people reacted to my news. You know the saying that only in tough times you know who your friends are? That became true to me once again.
It’s not new that people turn their backs on others when they need help. I am wondering though –
do we have to keep it that way?
No, we don’t.
I have been thinking about this for a while now and I understand that not everyone wants to know about other people’s struggles. Hardly any of us are Jesus or Gandhi reborn and that’s ok.
I am talking about dealing with friends, new and old, work colleagues, acquaintances we are friendly with. The check out lady at your local supermarket, your grocer and anyone who have regular contact and know a thing or two about them. You asked their advice, they asked yours, you had a laugh together before and there is familiarity.
Your regular circle of people.
If any of these people share news with you that are not good and you can see that they are upset then the question is – what should you do?
Definitely not turning your back on them. Don’t worry, you don’t have to solve their problems for them either. There are three simple steps though you can take that will make a huge difference to the person who was hit with bad news.
It will require kindness from you and a bit of your time. That’s all.
Don’t assume – ask
Ok, here’s the deal. Someone you know just told you that they are having a hard time or did get bad news. That’s not great and it might make you feel uncomfortable.
It’s important though to remember that this person trusts you to a fair degree, otherwise they wouldn’t share such news with you. They feel safe to do so and that’s pretty cool! So let’s not mess it up with the wrong reaction.
Don’t assume that they want to be left alone. Don’t assume that they need this or that because you think it’s an excellent idea.
Instead – ask.
Do they want to be by themselves right now? I’m pretty sure they will tell you. Before you make suggestions what they need or should do, get more information. What do you know about the situation or the condition they just told you about? Don’t assume because someone is going through a rough patch or is facing a huge life change, that they will need what you think is right.
Take a step back and keep your ideas to yourself. Talk about them if you’re asked. If not – zip it.
2) Unwanted sharing is uncool
It’s never easy to provide words of comfort and support to someone who is in a difficult situation. It makes it even harder when we don’t really know anything abou it.
If you never experienced depression, you can only guess what it must feel like. If you are super rich, chances are, you don’t know what making ends meet means. That goes for any news your friend or coworker might share with you. Or, you might know someone who knows someone who had that illness or struggle with said issue.
Either way, the advice here applies to both scenarios.
Don’t make this about you or what you know.
Don’t respond by saying to news of an illness ‘oh, I knew someone who died because of it’. Umm, yeah. That is anything BUT helpful.
That’s good you know someone but again, this is not about you. Listen. What is the person saying? Are they distressed, angry, sad? Pick up on their emotions and acknowledge them.
Don’t say what you feel beccause, you guessed it, it’s not about you!
For a few minutes in your day, stop and listen and make the person who turned to you feel like they’re being heard.
3) Choose your words wisely
Most bad news are not easy to digest, I get that. As a friend or accquaintance, it’s challenging to hear sad stories.
As I mentioned previously though, this is not about solving their problem. Many can’t be resolved with one quick chat anyway. Right now, it is most important that the person who struggles feels understood and heard and not alone.
Words are very powerful and we forget that often.
We need to think before we speak. Don’t say anything for speaking’s sake.
As always, when you say something, keep it simple. Say ‘I’m so sorry to hear this’. Reassure them with a smile if you talk to them in person or a hug emoij if you chat online. It’s the small things that count.
Most likely, the person you spoke to has a long road ahead of them. Following these three steps won’t take too much of your time but they will make the person opposite you take those first steps on their new journey with a lighter heart.