A few things to think about from a guy whose share of mistakes has successfully produced the list.
When someone’s going through a really difficult time:
“It’s gonna be OK.” No.
“I’m in your corner.” Yes.
Here’s the principle – We don’t really know if it’s going to be OK. Now, probably it’ll change for the better at some point, but, it may get worse before it gets better, so let’s not allow what we can’t truly know to inadvertently be a source of future discouragement for the person we’re trying to help.
Just being present throughout someone’s difficulty is more important than the desire to assure that person of something that’s ultimately hard to accurately predict.
When someone’s describing a really difficult time:
“I understand.” No.
“Tell me more.” Yes.
Here’s the principle – We all do it. We filter what’s happening to us through what’s in us – our personality, our past experiences, and our unique viewpoint. While there are some things common to the human condition, even twins aren’t clones. Similarities and duplicates aren’t synonyms.
When we work hard to avoid language that, again, inadvertently diminishes a person’s individuality, and instead, invite them to express themselves further, we communicate that we’re not only interested in what they’re saying, but, in who they are.
People want to be recognized. And heard. And even more, listened to. So, let them talk.
Ultimately, we’ve just got a choice to make.
When those we care about are navigating tough stuff, where are we going to position ourselves?
In front? Bad choice. The likely resulting platitudes will do little, other than successfully earn our irrelevance.
In back? Again, not helpful. Anyone can take a stab at interpreting what’s already happened to someone else, but real help, the kind that keeps a head above the water line, is rarely made up of opinions.
So how about just coming alongside them?
Next to them.
Talking if necessary, but mostly, just present.
A pace partner through the slog.