This post was inspired by section of the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, by: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer. In it, Sheryl talks about personal tragedy and how people react to a friend or acquaintance that has a major (or even minor) life occurrence. Everyone feels bad and no one knows how to help. The go-to statement is “Is there anything I can do?” She doesn’t like this response because it shifts the burden; now the person you’re trying to help has to figure out what they need.
I realized how often I say those very words. “Please let me know if I can help,” or “Is there anything I can do?” I use these phrases and am almost always met with “I’m okay, thanks.” After seeing Sheryl Sandberg at a live event promoting this book, I began to really dive into how I try to help my friends in need. I am comfortable with a canned response, so that’s what I say. I leave it open, but even my closest friends don’t often ask for help. I started applying true empathy and thinking hard about what I might want if I were in their shoes.
I posted on Facebook one hot summer evening that my AC went out. A friend’s husband is an AC Repair Technician. She could call and say “Please let me know if you need anything.” But it’s 9:45PM and I am NOT going to ask her husband to drive 20 minutes to my house. Guess who just showed up? Yes – this really happened.
A friend reached out to say she got called into work and couldn’t make our Girls Night Out. She was so disappointed and we could tell she was really bummed. I grabbed her a Margarita To-Go and dropped it to her for after her shift. I guarantee you if I asked she would have told me “No Thanks,” but she was ecstatic to receive it. It let her know how much we really missed her.
I added to a thread in a small Facebook group about my unusual personal and work challenges that week. I got home from work to find a tower of Mini Nothing Bundt Cakes with a very sweet note.
A girlfriend was having a rough few days and asked for prayers in a group text. I replied sending light and love but also asked when I could pick her kids up for a dinner date and give her a break.
Just Show Up
I’m learning to be the kind friend my friends need by trying hard to Just Show Up. It’s still soooo tough not to ask if they need anything and to think of ways to just be there. It requires thought and true empathy, but I have found so far that it’s the best way to show you really care.