"What do I do when a friend asks for help and I don't know how?"
I was doing a workshop on Saturday titled, "Useful Thoughts: The Path to Resilience". Towards the end we had discussed "whether asking for help" was a "resilient" thing to do. And we agreed that asking for help with something you are struggling with is usually a good thing. (We also discussed it should be the "right" person- but that's for a different blog entry.) So after we talked about this issue for a bit, one participant asked: "What do you do when a friend asks for help and you don't know how or what to say?"
The first thing I said was I don't think it's up to you to have all the answers. I think we often feel that when a friend or someone else in need asks us for help, that they are expecting us to have the answers. And I don’t think that is the case. Often what happens is that the friend really just needs someone to listen to them. I also suggested the importance of validating what the person is going through. Sometimes it’s “helpful” enough to say, “wow, that seems like a lot that you are going through! That must be tough…”
I also suggested that you instead of you suggesting ways to help—you can say to the person: “what can I do to help?” And let them think about it. Because sometimes what happens is that we help the person in the way WE would want to be helped or the way we think we SHOULD help. When in reality the person we are trying to help needs something quite different!
Another thing I pointed out to this woman was when someone comes to us for help who is really upset or something is really going poorly for him/her—then it can be quite uncomfortable and difficult for the person hearing it. It’s hard to see and be there for someone we care about who is so distraught. And we can get a feeling that we really just want to fix it for the person! So it’s important to recognize and validate that struggle too. It’s like the emotional part of “even the helpers need help.” So if someone you care about is having a really hard time, it makes a lot of sense for you then to confide in someone else about how hard it is to hear your friend or loved one’s pain.
We all need help, helping…It’s really just one big circle. And we’ve all been given different ways to help eachother too. So in the same way if someone asks you for help in a way that you can’t do for various reasons- it’s okay so say, “I’m sorry I can’t help in that way. But I can find someone else who can. And in the mean time, I can help in this way…”
How about you? Are you feeling run down because you are always so busy helping others that you don’t have time to help yourself? Are you having problems navigating which “helps” are most fitted for your gifts? I can help you have more clarity so that you know when it’s best to say “yes”, or “no” or even when it’s best for YOU to ask for help! Please reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org I’m just an e-mail away!