At Flower we often talk about the challenge of knowing what to say or do when a friend is in crisis. After all, it’s one of the main problems we want to address with the app.
We’re taking our cues from personal experience with helping family members through an illness. We’re also scouring the literature for ideas, such as Brene Brown’s wonderful conversation about connecting through empathy.
One such article recently appeared in the NYTimes. In it, Bruce Feiler writes that we must, to quote Nike, just do it. Find a way to get beyond the superficial ‘likes’ to meaningful action.
Our instinct is often to say to a friend who’s suffering, “Let me know if there’s anything you need.” While well meaning, this gesture unintentionally shifts the obligation to the aggrieved. Instead of offering “anything,” just do something.
Feiler notes several books that offer ideas for how to give support. Make plans rather than shying away from your friend, avoid empty “happy talk,” and consider offering distraction by sharing your own experiences.
If you’re looking for something more concrete, the American Cancer Society has a list of ways you can make a big difference. Their advice for helping a friend with cancer (which we think applies to any major crisis) is to stay close and tailor your support to what your friend needs and enjoys most.
Let them know they’re important to you through notes, calls and visits. Listen, ask for opinions — in other words, have conversations.
Try to remember that the most important thing is not what you say – it’s that you’re there and willing to listen. Try to hear and understand how your friend feels. Let them know that you’re open to talking whenever they feel like it. Or, if the person doesn’t feel like talking, let them know that’s OK, too.
The bottom line: be there for them. Help with errands, find projects to do together, bring little gifts that let them know you’re thinking about them.
In short, be a friend.