Supporting a Loved One
This could go into so many directions, depending on what your loved one needs support with.
That being said, there is one thing everyone needs support with, and it’s also the thing that few people ever receive. It’s the feeling of being understood.
What’s usually the first thing we get when we tell someone about our problems? We get their proposed solution to the problem. “You should do X!” And then, if they are really dedicated, maybe even weekly follow-ups to check if we’ve already done it.
We humans are very solution oriented. And that’s certainly a good thing when your car is leaking oil or the heater in the living room is broken. “Just tighten that screw over there!” - “Just check the fuse!” (Disclaimer: I’m neither a car nor heater expert, so don’t follow that advice without consulting a professional first).
This doesn’t work with complex problems though, and it doesn’t work when there are a lot of emotions involved - be that worry, anxiety or sadness.
First, we need to SEE the other person. And we need to show them that we see them. The key to that is empathy: seeing the world through the other person’s eyes.
That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with them, or that we have to somehow feel the same. But it does mean that, for just a moment, we drop all preconceived notions and put ourselves in their shoes.
“I’ve just got a child and now I’m about to lose my job. That’s really terrifying. There are so many things the baby needs and I can’t pay for this!”
And then let them know how that perspective looks like to you. First and foremost, any human wants to feel understood.
Would you accept advice or help from someone who doesn’t get you? Probably not.
So only when this understanding is established, can any advice or help fall on fertile ground. And that can be as easy as, “Would you like to hear my opinion?” or my personal favorite: “How can I help?”.
Give them the gift of listening, then give them the gift of understanding, and only then give them the gift of your support.
All the best to you and your loved ones,
About the Author
Michael Herold is a life coach based in Austria and Germany and works at The Art of Charm, a L.A. based company where he is using evidence-based psychotherapy to help clients overcome their social anxiety through playful exercises. If you’re strolling through the shopping streets of Vienna and you hear someone howl like a wolf in a shopping mall, or have someone ask you for a high-five or tell you a really, really bad joke - it’s probably one of his clients!
Michael is also a public speaker and speaker coach. He has spoken at TEDx, in front of members of parliament, universities and in once in a cinema full of 500 kids high on sugary popcorn. Clients he has coached for presentations have been featured on NBC, Fast Company, Forbes and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
In a previous life, he has been a character animator working on awardwinning movies and TV shows like “The Penguins of Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda”. That was before he realized that helping people to live a meaningful life is much more rewarding than creating Saturday morning cartoons (even though the long nights in the studio allowed him to brew his own beer in the office closet).