Make an Offer
How do you show support for a friend who is going through a rough patch?
Most of us can probably name someone who lent us a hand during a hard time. That person who said or did just the right thing when we needed it most. Being on the other side of that equation, however, is difficult. We see someone struggling and want to help, but don’t know how. We want to offer support, but we don’t want to say the wrong thing. We want to help, but we don’t want to be pushy.
How do we strike that balance?
In a previous AgWell column, we touched on the importance of active listening: listening just for the sake of listening, without any attempt to solve the problem at hand. By simply using phrases like, “Tell me more,” or “What’s on your mind these days?” we can hold space for people to process on their own.
Today, we would like to suggest another strategy: making an offer.
Often, when someone is going through a difficult situation, our go-to response is, “Let me know how I can help.” While our intentions are admirable, this phrase has one major drawback: it puts the onus for action on the person who is already struggling. When life piles on the hard times, it’s hardly fair to ask anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed to organize their own support. Grieving relatives of a deceased person shouldn’t have to plan their own meal train. A spouse supporting their loved one through a cancer battle has no brain space for figuring out how to get the house chores done.
Rather than a general offer of assistance then, a better strategy is to offer specific help in a specific manner at a specific time.
Instead of “Let me know what I can do,” try: “I’d like to come clean your house once a month on the date of your choosing until all of this is over.” Or, “I’m a good organizer. Can I organize a crew of folks to come do all the chores around the homestead for the next few weeks?” Or, “What if I make a list of people willing to help drive to doctor’s visits, and the days and times that each person is available?”
By making a clear, concrete offer, you take the work of planning and organizing off the struggling person. By framing it as a question, you give them the option to say no. It’s important to understand that an offer is just that – an offer, not an obligation. You can offer your help, and they may reject it. That’s okay.
However, many of us are terrible at asking for help even when we know we need it. Receiving help, without having to ask, however, takes the pressure off. Someone had the wherewithal to see that we could use a hand, and the forethought to think through what we might need.
Making an offer is a simple way to lighten a load.