Everybody is going through something, we just don’t always know about. It’s true, isn’t it? We all go through difficulties we tend to keep to ourselves. For some, it is easier to share with others, but for others, they tend to be mum about their hardships. Life is tough, and for some life seems like a battle. How do you deal with it if it’s someone close to you? Your husband is having anxiety attacks, or your sister suffers from depression, what do you do first? How do you show support?
There are things to keep in mind when you are trying to help a family member. It won’t be easy, but for your loved one, you are willing to do everything right?
Subtlety is key.
There will be times when they may not want help from other people. It is not because they do not love you but because they feel that they do not want to involve you and burden you the pain and stress they are feeling. According to a research conducted, overt support (they know they are receiving support from others) at times, give them a feeling of dependency and indebtedness to the other person. On the other hand, receiving invisible or subtle support strengthens the relationship between the giver and receiver. So how do you do it? Emphasize the strength and resilience they have in handling their problems and show compassion for their hardship. Also, express genuine desire to be their support system and hold their hand through it.
It is about them, it will never be about you.
So your sister is going through something you have experienced before. Do you tell her what you did and how you dealt with it? While it can be at one side be a good idea to let her feel that she can also get past her problem because you have been there and survived, it can also have adverse effects. Sharing with her what you went through shifts the focus from her to you. It can even belittle her experience depending on how minor or severe your experience is compared to her.
Don’t just say it. Show it.
Don’t just say, “I’m here for you.” Be there for her. If she needs someone to have lunch with, and you are free, go out with her. Don’t say something you do not mean and you know you will not follow through.
A typical line is, “Everything will be fine. Don’t worry about it.” Reverse roles and assess how you will feel if you are in the receiving end of that advice. So instead, do everything you can to increase at least the possibility that she will be fine.
Empathize not sympathize.
Psychologist Carl Rogers, known for his person-centered approach, believed that empathy was critical in fully understanding another person. Empathy is understanding the person and doing more than just listening.
Sympathy is “I feel sorry for you.” While empathy, on the other hand, is “I understand what you are going through right now, how can I help you with this?” So remember, empathize not sympathize.