Tuesday, September 2, 2014

3 Unhelpful Things Folks Do When A Friend Is In Crisis and How To Be Different

Do you know how to extend a hand during a crisis?

When people you care about hit a bump in the road, it can be super hard as a bystander. It often takes all we have to be on the outside of the crisis looking in. The immediate time following discovery of a crisis is so important. Whether your friend tells you or you find out another way, how you react to them in the early days really makes a difference in the long run. After many years being on both sides of this equation, I've compiled of list of the 3 unhelpful things most folks do when a friend is in  a crisis and what to do instead.


Believe it or not, many people do nothing. They either 100% avoid the person during the crisis or completely ignore the crisis when they are forced to see them. While it is uncomfortable for you, it is worse for them. Nothing is really the worst possible thing to do when someone you care about is hurting. People need empathy and compassion when they are dealing with a problem. Proactively reach out to the person and let them know you are there for them. Nowadays, a text is good enough to gently send the message that you care, especially if you are unsure of how close your relationship may be. Of course, call if you share a deeper bond. When you see them, don't avert eye contact, give them long reassuring gestures to demonstrate your love and loyalty during their difficult time. Make sure you check in with them after the "initial" hit. Like earthquakes, most human crises have "aftershocks" and it takes time to return to their routine. Knowing people are concerned can really make a difference, more so as time goes on.

One Up

If your friend opens up to you about the crisis and needs to share, do not "one up" them. Meaning, don't use that opportunity to relate a time you felt similarly or compare their current crisis with your own past crisis (or that of someone else)  - even if they are identical. During the crisis, people want to be heard. They need to vent and release the stress they are feeling. While relating stories are good in other circumstances, during a crisis, it is best to just listen, especially in the early stages. When people are in shock from their crisis, the last thing they need is to have to shift their thoughts and energy to processing a story about someone else. At some point, it will be ok to give your friend encouragement about a future state but during the crisis, it's best to just listen.

Crisis Overkill

Many people get wrapped up in someone else's crisis. It's human nature to do so. Being obsessed with knowing "how it's going?" or "are you ok?" can be very damaging to a person's ability to heal. Do your best to read your friend and discern their healing rate. Clearly, ask how they are doing related to the crisis but ask them about other areas of their life as well. Your loved one needs outlets and reminders that life goes on. Time often drags in the midst of a crisis and uncertainty. Every day tasks can be monumental when under tremendous stress. Bring dinner one night to relieve her of that responsibility.  Take him out for coffee and share with them something new going on in your life - unrelated to the situation. Give them a gift card for a car wash. Mow their lawn or come and take their dog for walk. Being helpful in a meaningful way gives hope. It allows your friend a moment of gratitude and gratitude is a proven cure for most ills.

Adversity and crisis are apart of life and inevitably,  relationships. Our role as friends may call on us to be by someone's side when calamity hits. Next time you're called to support, you know exactly what to do.

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