(Issue #508) Is Your Help Helping?

“If I knew a man was coming to my house
with the conscious design of doing me good,
I should run for my life.”—Henry David Thoreau

 “It brings me comfort and encouragement
To have companions in whatever happens.”—Dio Chysostom

Whether you have seen them written on social media posts or heard them orally delivered, you are familiar with the three words: “Thoughts and Prayers.”

Usually, they respond to an illness, catastrophe, death, loss of a job, end of a relationship, or some other distressing event. The words are offered as help—as in “I want you to know I am thinking about you…but I really don’t know what else to say.” Well-meaning intention.

I understand the sentiment. But at times they may come across as a knee-jerk response that leave the hurting person with little solace. The intended help does not help. It might be better to offer silence. Though that can be difficult for many people.

In April of 2016 I offered some thoughts after my wife and I had navigated the journey of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Below you will find a few more thoughts and suggestions to consider  as you intend to comfort, encourage, and do good.

  • Sending a daily text or email or voicemail asking, “How are you doing?” may show concern but consider that it could create more stress for the recipient. An open-ended question expects a response. The intended person may not need another expectation placed on his/her shoulders at that particular moment.
  • Back in 2016, I made the offer to keep people updated about Laurie’s journey with group text messages. It was quick for me and them. They appreciated the information. They could opt out at any time. It proved helpful. If you are find yourself in such a group and you are told you will be updated as needed, it is not helpful to keep sending texts asking, “What’s the update? Is everything OK.”  At some point, your compassion becomes intrusive (though that is not your intention). If the hurting/grieving person is juggling a lot due to the circumstance, don’t add more to the mix. Don’t change the person’s timeline. This is a time about the person (and his/her family), not you.
  • Still, it is understandable that you are concerned about the injured or ill party. You want her/him/them to know you are available; that you want to help. In such cases, I found the following helpful:
    • “You don’t need to answer. Just want you to know I am thinking about you and ____.”
    • “If you need someone to talk to, please let me know. I’m here for you. Your timeline, not mine.”
    • “Thanks for your updates. Glad to hear the patient is doing well. Let her/him/them know a lot of people are cheering for her/him/them.”

True, certain circumstances may dictate a different approach. But, please, consider carefully. Before you go forth with the intent of doing good, stop and think about what you are saying or doing.

Is your help helping?


Video Recommendation for the Week

 You have a good heart. Your words and presence can, as James Taylor sings, “brighten up even the darkest night.” Be mindful.


strong>Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

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  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

About stevepiscitelli

Facilitator-Author-Teacher
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1 Response to (Issue #508) Is Your Help Helping?

  1. marianbeaman says:

    Ha ha! I’ll have to share the squatting quote with Cliff.
    Good script on wording offers of help without placing a burden on those in need.

    Like

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