I hear the tears in my friend’s voice. “I’m fine,” she says, “It’s no big deal.” She’s trying to stay strong but I know her well enough to sense her weariness. My first instinct is to try to make her feel better, to figure out a way to fix it. But I’ve learned when people are hurting what they want most is not for us to solve their problems but to stay with them in their pain.
It’s tempting to offer solutions, advice, or reassurance that all will be well. It’s harder to not react but respond, to sit in the sadness or anger of the people we love, to be a safe space where they can feel whatever they need to so they can begin to heal.
I’ve worked as a counselor and life coach, engaged with thousands of people as a writer, and spent four decades on this earth full of brokenhearted people. In all of that, I’ve found this one simple question to be the most helpful when someone in my life is hurting: How can I love you well right now?
This question means we’re asking rather than assuming, focusing on the other person instead of our own feelings, discovering what they truly want rather than what we think they need. No matter what the person says, even if their answer is entirely different than what ours would be, we listen with love and grace and then do what we can.
When I ask my friend how I can love her well she says, “Prayer and…pie.” We laugh and I tell her I can make both happen—I just need to know one more very important thing, “What kind of pie?”
On the More than Small Talk podcast, we recently did episodes about these two questions, “What does being close really mean?” and “How can we respond instead of react?” Join us for honest conversations, practical tips, and a little laughter that will make your day better and relationships stronger.