People ask me quite often “What do I say to someone at a time like this?” Maybe it’s a death of a pet or loved, maybe it’s the worst flood our country has ever seen. My advice? Say nothing and just listen.
You don’t need to apologize or say I’m sorry. They don’t want to hear about how the same thing happened to your aunt. And it’s really not as helpful as you think when you offer general statement such as “Is there anything I can do to help?” All you really need to do is listen. Give them a hug or perhaps a shoulder to cry on.
After you’ve listened, if you want to help in any additional ways, my advice is to be specific. Often times, people do need help, but are ashamed to have to ask for it. Sometimes people are in such a crisis, they don’t even know what kind of help they need. Instead of offering general assistance, get specific to ease some of the shame of asking for help. Some ideas I like to throw out include:
1. Can I bring you dinner at 5:00?
2. Would you like me to bring the kids to school on my way to work?
3. I have room for the kids to stay if you need a break. I can pick them up this weekend.
4. I can care for your pets for a few days while things settle back down.
5. I have some extra airline points you are welcome to use.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” -Ralph Nichols
Written by: Kristina Zufall, M.Ed., LPC-Intern