5 Tips to Help Your Friend (even if she says she doesn’t need help)


“Hello! How are you?” you ask your friend, and again, she insists on brightly answering “Ok!” while you can see the worn out and tired of worry in her eyes.

You know she is not being honest, but in lieu putting her in a headlock until she cries Uncle!, you just don’t know what else to do.

Instead, you perform the old “Let’s pretend” two-step, where you each act as though you are trouble-free, tap dancing your way around the truth.

*Sigh*

Aren’t there times you just want to gently grab your friend by the shoulders, look her in the eye, and say, “Listen! I know you are weary/hurting/fearful/broke/in pain. You aren’t alone. Each of us has problems. We are all very often overwhelmed. None of us have perfect lives. It is actually a sign of strength to allow someone to help. Let me help you!”

There are better and less confrontational ways to help your friend.

 

Let your friend know you aren’t just being polite.

Ask “How are you?” like you really mean it. If you get a standard, mildly chirpy “fine!”, ask again: “That’s not a stock question. I really want to know how you are.” Then just be silent and give her time to respond.

 

Give her the space to share.

Let  her know you are ready to listen. Then, be quiet and listen. Interrupting her, talking over the end of her sentences, or hijacking the conversation by telling her how your experience was much worse will not help her feel at ease. Neither will playing with your phone or doing other types multi-tasking. Resist the temptation to jump in and offer solutions because you have sized things up and assume you have the answer! Instead, give your undivided attention: ears open and lips closed.

 

 Be helpful, not judgmental

The last thing your friend needs is for you to come down on her for some behavior she is embarrassed about, whether it’s over spending, lackluster housekeeping, misspent time, or whatever it is that is causing her stress. She has compared her inadequate personal efforts to her skewed perception of her friends’ lives, and has judged herself as being severely lacking. So once she gets going, let her ramble, rant, and rave until she runs out of breath and words.

When she stops, give the silence a a little time to make sure your friend is set for the moment. Restate what she has said so she knows you were listening: “I can hear that you are upset/worried/concerned about/because/due to whatever it is that concerns them. If your rephrasing is incorrect, your friend will let you know. If you are on the money, she will agree. Ask open ended questions beginning with how or what. For example, one of my favorites is to start a question with this phrase: Well, what would have to happen for. . .? It is a powerful question that puts the person into a problem solving frame of mind.

 

Your friend may just need to be heard

Just to be able to speak concerns out loud and expose them to the light of day can provide wonderful relief. Your simple act of listening, sharing your empathy and possibly even some laughter with your friend may be all she needs at this time. You can ask if she would like you to just listen, or if she’d like some help figuring out ideas to get through the current challenges. Your friend may be overwhelmed by the current level of needs in her home, so the situation may automatically call for more action than listening.

 

Your friend needs concrete offers of help

Your friend may be in a situation where there is an immediate, shorter term, visible need, such as from a birth, an accident or illness. It may be a case where a family member has a chronic disease, or there is a child with special needs.

Whether the needs and challenges are short or longer term, hopefully you will  have picked up some ideas from listening so closely. Do not ask the open ended question “What can I do for you?” or say “Just call me if you need anything!” Instead, give your friend a couple of choices, such as bringing over a meal or driving the kids to practice, and ask which would be more helpful.

You can offer to grocery shop, to mow the lawn or to come over and take care of the kids so she and her husband can get some needed time away. You could help the children with their homework or take them to a park or to the beach. If you are visiting, you could offer to help pitch in with the chores, such as doing dishes or laundry. More hands—and good company—does make lighter work, after all!

 

As moms, we tend to be far more willing to give assistance rather than to be on the receiving end. Guilt, pride and a strong streak of independence keep us from admitting our need for help and to opening the door for our friends to step inside to lend a hand and some comfort to our weary selves. Today, instead of pretending, contact a friend to see how you can help, and follow through, or if you are called, accept the offer with grace.

 

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

 

Help us help one another. How have you been able to reach out to a friend in need? What was something a friend did for you?

 

Sharing at No Ordinary Blog Hop, Better Mom, Finding Heaven

Image credit- Cheryl Hicks via Flickr

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Comments

  1. Kim,
    I’ve found that sometimes lingering a little longer, reaching out to give a little touch, can make all the difference and let the other person know that I really want to hear what’s happening. And it’s been true, vice versa, for me too!

    • Excellent point, Ann! I know I have felt my resistance and reserve crumble when a friend does just that. Thanks for sharing those helpful points!

  2. Great practical suggestions, Kim. It’s hard to know how persistant to be, so it’s helpful to be as sensitive as possible to your friend. The Lord taught me some hard lessons about accepting help. It took four surgeries over a period of a year, but I finally learned that it’s ok to drop my guard and accept their offers to help me.

    Funny paradox – Sometimes I think accepting help is more humbling than offering it.
    I’m so glad to meet you. Thanks for stopping by my blog today!!

    • Welcome, Susan, and thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your wisdom! I agree-I think it is harder to accept help than to receive. I was in a car accident years ago, and couldn’t walk for several weeks. What a lesson that was in humility and acceptance! You make a good point about being sensitive to your friend as well.

    • Susan – you’re so right. It IS hard to know how persistent to be. That’s not an easy thing to gauge! And we’ve been on the receiving end of that help soooo many times and right again….that’s the harder end of it to be on. Super humbling.

  3. This is just so good…and so true Kim.
    Often, I think being willing to “linger” as Ann wrote above and you shared…to not be afraid of a little silence…that often is the key to getting a transparent answer. I love your suggestions here and the fact that if you ask “how are you?”…you actually do want to know. Even if it’s messy.

    • “Even if it’s messy” :-)
      Isn’t that the truth!

      I think the trick for many of us—well, especially for me—is to be silent and be the listener, be the receiver of my friend’s story.
      Thanks for coming by Kara, glad you had an awesome time on your vacation!

  4. Great points, Kim. Recently, a counselor spoke at my women’s Bible study, and she said women who are hurting often just want to be validated. They don’t need their friends to fix the problem, necessarily, but they just want someone to say, “Yeah, that’s really a tough situation, and it’s okay to struggle with it.” I often take that approach for starters. Thanks for this post!

    • You are welcome, Becky. What a great point from that speaker! I think women want to help, but often just listening is the best way. I have read that is one of the reasons couples fight: the woman is just looking to be heard, and the husband just wants to fix things and move on. Thanks for coming by!

  5. Lisa Jackson says:

    I wanted to say how blessed I was to read this blog. In the last few months, I have had to be good trusting friend. Be there to hear, love, and give perspective. You know, it is hard sometimes when you do not want to bruise someone’s spirit. But when you show grace and mercy, it can make all the difference. Especially when you celebrate the little success along the way.

    • Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your personal experience, Lisa! Your friend is truly blessed to have had you there for her. Yes, being graceful and merciful is often one of the last things we want to do, but it is often what we and our friends need most in difficult times.

  6. Wow, I truly loved this post. The thoughts were great on friendships and can also apply when working with children. This was a great reminder to listen more than talk. When talking with children I sometimes want to solve their problem and usually they want to just talk and in the end they usually solve it themselves. Thanks again for a great read.
    Blessings to you!

    • LeAnn, thank you for your kind words. I am so glad you enjoyed this post! Great point on applying these same principles to kids. I agree-very often kids need to talk things out so they can work their way to a solution. Blessings to you as well!

  7. –Excellent Post.
    The “”Non-Judgemental”" part is HUGE.
    You, my dear, must be a wonderful friend. X

    • {Blush}
      Yes, that non-judgemental piece is so critical.
      Thanks for your kind comments. Being a good friend is something I work at daily, especially with my young adult daughters. They give great feedback when I am remiss in being non-judgemental. :-)

  8. comment form testing… for some reason this is not working!

  9. (Of course that one worked… now to remember what I said before..)

    Love your list!
    I would add only one thing-
    in SOME cases (the extremely emotional cases or the cases where the friend is depressed..) I think the kind thing to do is to let her fake it. (And still offer concrete help, like you said.) Sometimes when I struggle I really do just need to get through this, say, bible class or something, and I want my friend to let me fake it at least until we are not in public any longer. And then LATER, perhaps a concerned email and a gentle and loving prod :)

    New follower from NOBH!
    Emily

    • I agree, Emily. No need to embarrass or call out a friend in public. I think we’ve all probably been there. :-(
      I like your idea of following up, though. It’s important to know our friends are with us, and that we are accountable to one another.
      Glad you found me at NOBH-great place!-and thanks for following.

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