Listen: Help Someone in Personal Crisis

I’ve been in the people-helping business for a long time. Although the focus of my ministry (that’s how I refer to my work, so get over it) is not helping those in crisis, it is not uncommon for a regular client to come to a place where their life intersects with a crisis scenario.

This is one reason why I am thirsty for new modalities and methods of helping people dealing with unforeseen circumstance. Having these tools in my collection can help keep the client from being derailed and thrown off-track from their progress or goals (though it is not my specialty, so if the crisis is significant, it may be time for a time-out and referral to someone who specializes in this type of challenge).

All of us have the opportunity to help someone within our social inner circle – people we know or are well-acquainted with – who need a helping hand when encountering a life crisis.

In our attempt to help someone in crisis, are we more apt to help or harm?

Therapists, counselors and clergy all hold, “help and do no harm,” as the basis of their approach when helping others; as do the rest of us. Of course, in our attempt to help someone along their life’s journey, we would hope that our assistance would be more helpful that harmful.

When people are in crisis, they are in an altered state of mind. It is easy for us to forget this when we see someone that we care about – a friend, co-worker, relative or client – suffering when dealing with an unforeseen crisis.

Your first response to anyone in this altered state of mind is critical.

For example, let’s say your best friend from high school just happens to be in town on business, has been recently diagnosed with cancer and has been given three months to live. He or she wants to meet with you for lunch to talk.

You think, “This is great,” I know so many people who have been diagnosed with cancer and kicked it, naturally, I can’t wait to share all this information with my friend. You go about collecting all the data (personal testimonials, googled information, scriptures and sample nutrients) you can find, throw them into a wheelbarrow and rush over to help your friend kick their cancer to the curb. Hooray!

Wrong

When someone has just recently engaged with significant tragedy or bad news, their tendency is to sink into a somewhat depressed and/or angry state.

Your first interaction with them will either open them up to your assistance, or shut you out.

Being too aggressively helpful when someone is in psychological pain will result in them not being able to hear you. Unless they are asking you for ideas (and even so, please proceed with some restraint) their most important need is to be able to get rid of some of the frustration that they feel inside.

What they really need is someone to listen

In most cases to help someone in the best way possible is to just listen to what they have to say.

Establish trust by promising them confidentiality in regards to anything they might say – and be true to your word. Anything that they say doesn’t leave this room.

Let them use whatever terms or phrases that they feel like using, without judgment or interjection. Allowing them to vent freely without restriction is the best help you can offer in an initial sitting with someone in crisis.

Simply nod, agree and/or encourage them to continue while they are letting it all out.

Then, when they have said all they have to say… pick your best five words to say – no more – and make an appointment to meet them to talk again.

The best way to help someone in crisis is to listen to them until they are done sharing

In doing so, you have established – with this person who is currently in a weakened state of mind – you care. If they are agreeing to meet with you again, then you can slowly and gently, offer advice (suggestions, not demands) and interact with them more, being careful not to appear non-compassionate, intolerant, have a lack of understanding or result in their alienating you.

If you truly want to help, consider, “being there,” for the people that you care about with compassion.

Show them you care by letting them share.

What Can I Do for You?

You are such a blessing to others offering love, support and assistance… Greeting others with, “What can I do for you?”

You are such a blessing to others offering love support and assistanceThere are those of us who come to this planet with a servant’s heart. That is to say that we thrive when serving others. I am a person whose optimal performance shines when assisting someone to achieve their highest and best and for me, in my work, little is more exciting than being in the room when someone achieves a breakthrough or epiphany.

Many occupations in our society are being performed by those who perform at their best, engaging all their skills for the betterment of another. You find these mild-mannered super heroes in jobs, like child care, church work, clergy, coaching, consulting, counselors, emergency response personnel, firefighters, military service, missionaries, nursing and health care, social workers and volunteers, etc…

The persons, who are born with a servant’s heart, are willing to put aside their own personal wants, needs and desires aside so that others can survive or thrive. You will find many of them serving in a full-time capacity and volunteering their free time to help even more.

I am quite impressed that a firefighter chooses an occupation that requires their running into a burning building to help whomever might need their assistance getting out – and they love it – this is their calling. Now, I might run into a burning building to save someone, but I would not want to have to work a job that had me doing that all day long.

Fortunately for us, there are those whose hearts and skills are more attuned to service work, relishing and performing tasks for the greater good. Although someone who tends to be a giver, they can be easily taken advantage of and it is impossible for these people to give to everyone, all the time, without risk to their ability to perform their practice at all.

It is in our best interest to monitor these high functioning service workers to see if they appear to be giving too much. Are they depleting their personal resources? Are they being manipulated by abusers or users who will drain (or monopolize) their resources? Are they sacrificing their own needs too much (rest, eating right, health maintenance, time with their own family, etc…)?

Let’s keep a watchful eye out for those who might have a tendency to sacrifice all, and help them to notice that it’s okay to take some time out for themselves, to take a break, to eat a good meal, to spend time with loved ones, to take a vacation, a spa day – do something fun once and a while. Because oftentimes, the best givers are maintaining such a high level of giving, that they fail to take a moment to look at their own lives.

These mostly unsung super heroes receive expressions of gratitude and sometimes recognition or praise for their courageous acts of service but there is nothing more meaningful to someone who gives, and gives… as hearing those few words that they speak often when arriving on scene or meeting someone:

What can I do for you?

To those givers – who are giving your all – for the greater good, I honor your service.

And don’t be offended, when someone tries to get you to take a look at your own life, encouraging you to take some time to recharge and rejuvenate, so that you are better for continued service, without the threat of burnout (or worse).

Where would we be without you?

Keep an open mind and cherish those who support you in kind.

Loving you and all that you do