Hello everybody, welcome to episode 29 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino, nice to have you here with us today. Today, we’ll be discussing some tips and tricks for being good helpers and what we can do to support and give advice to friends in need. This is sure something we’ll all be able to take with us, so let’s sit back, relax, and see what we’ve got here…
QUESTION: “I’ve made a new friend that seems to have a lot of troubles in other areas of life that she regularly asks me for help with. It’s not that I mind helping at all, I actually really enjoy it because I can tell she doesn’t have many others that would listen. It’s just that I’m not sure how to help best or understand what she’s telling me about her struggles with other people and events from the past. My question is how do I be a good helper for this new friend in my life?”
What do you say to a friend in need?
It’s nice to hear from someone who’s so enthusiastic about helping out. Were it not for the section about you really enjoying helping her, my answer would’ve been much different. So good on you for taking the steps to learn how to help this person out as best you can.
Well, you hit the nail on the head, in a way that most people who want to help others might not realize. It’s important for anyone in a helping position at any time to realize not only the value of understanding where others are coming from, but also the challenge that comes in identifying with them and their interpretation of that which they struggle with.
That’s hard to do because we all have our own interpretations of things and it can be difficult to support others when they’re pursuing something that we would not pursue. That’s why help can be so frustrating sometimes; even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to spit directions at someone that really reflect our own values rather than theirs which leads to directions or advice that really isn’t helpful to other person. This rarely id useful unless the circumstances are extreme. So they don’t take the help and we find ourselves wondering why and throwing a hissy fit.
How do I understand where my friend is coming from?
So how do we get into the minds of those we want to help enough to understand where they’re coming from, even if we don’t agree with it?
Well it starts with what I just said; listening without judgment. Letting her have different values than you and trying to support them rather than reprimand her. Unless she’s out trying to kill people or something and she lives a life you simply cannot agree with, this should be a good test of your own empathy, thus allowing you to grow as well. And that empathy is exactly what you want to try to show her. Through your own empathy, you can model what empathy looks like and encourage her to follow suit through example.
Empathy might be the best thing for anyone who’s struggling, because with a lot of struggle often comes a lot of blame. It’s easy to throw blame around and at any aspect of the world as a means of deflecting responsibility, so if you can show her empathy, she’s in a better position to see where those who have harmed her are coming from, which then puts her in a better position to see and take responsibility for the role she plays, which then THEN allows her to see herself as others might see her. And anyone who can make that realization can have an entirely new perception on life.
What is good advice to give to a friend?
So I’d say these might be your ultimate goals in how to give advice and help this new friend of yours, and now we’ll talk about how to reach them and some things you can do when actually interacting with this friend. BOTH of us, actually, have already alluded to the fact that it can be difficult to understand other people especially when they’re only sharing THEIR unique interpretations about that which is happening to them.
So although you want to connect and understand this person and their values, the trick is that you ALSO want to stay DISCONNECTED enough to form your own interpretations as they’re sharing theirs. Also consider “multiplexity,” which is the overlap of affiliations or roles in a social relationship like an adult friendship. For example, you might seek a different form of friendship with a neighbor versus a coworker.
Of course, we’ll all put our own spins on life’s happenings through our own lenses, and your lens is important to take notice of because you’ll be apt to seeing a side of her that she might not.
Notice how she interacts with you and the impressions you get of her rather than trying to dig into her stories about others or understand her past, because the impression you get is the side of her others likely see and therefore is the side of her that’s best for her to take responsibility for. Dare I say pay more attention to the moment to moment interactions with her than you do her stories. This will help you to stay present and speak from truth you know rather than latching on to whatever she says and not considering other sides of her stories.
How to help a friend in need
This gives you a lot of concrete evidence to work with; evidence you can discuss with her as it’s probably not something she’ll realize she’s doing. Pay attention to the things she brings up and how she brings them up. Make your help for her continuous by revisiting these things if you feel they might correlate with certain struggles she faces.
What has she brought up already, maybe in the first time she opened up to you, that it’s clear she wants or needs to focus on and could be the spine supporting other struggles? And how might other people involved have different perceptions? Are there other sides of her that might need to come out for her problems to be assuaged?
These useful questions and others like them only make themselves available if your support for her is rooted in neutrality rather than assuming she’s speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That’s not to say your ability to help her lessens the closer you get with her, it just means that one of the best ways to help others is to help them see things they might be overlooking.
If you’re able to observe her as much as you listen to her and understand that her side of things is only one side, you’ll likely find that you have a lot more information AKA fuel to help her, than you realize.
And keep in mind relationship quality. While having friends is associated with well being, you want a supportive and quality friendship that is able to last through different life transitions and experiences.
Before coming to a close here I do want to recommend a book here for whomever was particularly taken by this episode. It’s a book called The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom. It’s a book tailored mostly for therapists but it’s enjoyable read for anyone and it covers a lot of what I discussed here today and much more. So do with that you will.
Thanks so much for sending this question in today! I think it brought out the good in us and our desire to help those in need of someone.
As you probably know, we take all kinds of questions here on the show so don’t be afraid to submit yours by email at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks for coming, and I sure hope you’ll be here for the next one. Until then!