I recently watched a video that really struck a chord with me because of the way it highlighted the part on my life where social interaction really became stressful. The past three years have been the most difficult of my life. Now that my circumstances are finally changing, I'm finally in a space where I can use my emotional journey to help others.
Before this, it was hard for me to understand how sometimes it's better to just leave people alone when you don't know how to help them. When life is hard and you can no longer hide it, like many are pressured to do on a daily basis--story for another day--it's only natural for people to want to help. What else is natural, is how those same people try to comfort you in ways that help them through hard times. Simple enough, right?
Quite. However, life just is everything but simple when emotions get involved. Emotions suck, and they can really grind gears without proper understanding of what's going on from all parties involved.
What many don't know, including me until fairly recently, is that there's more than one way to make someone feel better. The video I liked above shows six of these options that I feel like most would be able to relate to. The video is brief and straightforward, but I'd still recommend you give it a watch. Some people usually lean toward one or other on this list. There are also those like myself who shuffle through all these seemingly at random. But not really random. Let me explain...
What I'll be talking about is exactly why these options may not always work.
Option 1: Offering Solutions
What can really be frustrating about this is that sometimes the solutions just aren't warranted or don't make sense. Your loved one comes home and complains to you about work, and your first though is to maybe offer a solution as to how they could change their situation for the better and work things out. That's very thoughtful of you, but it just doesn't seem to be working and they're still frustrated. You were just trying to help. What went wrong?
- You may be pressuring them into thanking you for advice that either doesn't make sense in context
- Rushing out advice can often feel like you're trying to just push their problems out the way and move on
Option 2: Offering Optimism
- can easily feel forced
- can seem like you're not listening
- can seem like you're neglecting the real issue at hand
- often involve quotes that everyone has heard before
Option 3: Offering Pessimism
- may not make sense or seem rational
- can make them feel pressured to agree even though they really don't
- while it can make some feel better, it can make others simply feel worse
I'd suggest this only with that person who typically faces or embraces life's harsh realities head-on, but are finding this situation particularly hard to work out
Option 4: Offered Practical Help
- similar to option 1 and 2, it can feel really impersonal
I feel like this generally works best for the kind of person who you really know what will make them feel better. Suggesting random things whether they actually like them or not can be really hit or miss and depends on the person and your relationship.
I've always been kind of wary about this option, being that I always imagine them going home and still being in just as much of a rut behind closed doors.
It can just as much make them feel like you're trying to brush everything under the rug and move on without listening
"Sometimes none of the ways we like work and we have to search harder."
This is true. Everyone is different. It can be (very) frustrating, but it's true nonetheless.
In the end, it's the thought that counts. Your heart was probably in the right place. However, if you're met with evasive responses, don't take it personally.
Option 5: Just Listen
- The safest option for those people you were "just trying to help" (in my opinion)
- The safest option for the person who always goes ("I just don't know what to say" *shrug* *nervous smile*)
- I've had people get anxious around me and say
- when you've tried option 1 - 4, it's usually because this is all they wanted
Some people just want to vent and be listened to. That's really it. When you can't figure out what to do, I would definitely consider this to be your go-to option.
Option 6: Affection
Well, this one basically speaks for itself. However, it's similar to Option 6, just more intimate. Sometimes all they want is a hug. Or, y'know...
Anyway, looking back, some may considering this list overbearing and frustrating. And yes, it definitely is. However, as I've said before, emotions suck.
Many times, there is no best solution. There's no guarantee that you can just swoop into someone's time of struggle and make everything better without breaking a few eggs. People are complicated, and many don't even understand their own emotional needs, at times. It may be hard, but sometimes you just have to learn to not take their evasiveness personal and move on. That's not to say that they're beyond help, or that you need to cut them out of your life entirely. They just may not want help right now, or may not want it from you. This could be because they're looking for someone in mind who they know will understand, or that specific someone to spend time with for Option 6...
What's important for you, yourself, is to be around the kind of person who will at least explain things or apologize to you later.