What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Say
A close friend approaches you with a complicated problem that doesn’t have an easy solution. What do you do? If you simply express sympathy, you are not helping to solve the problem. If you try to give advice, it may seem like an attempt at a “quick fix” and appear as if you ‘ don’t understand the situation. You want to help, but you don’t want to intrude. What do you do?
You can help others arrive at their own solutions without being judgmental or intrusive by performing the following tasks:
- Help sort out concerns. Clarify the problem. Prioritize concerns and needs.
- Consider options. Identify what can be done. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives.
- Develop a plan. Focus on the best possible course of action. Plan carefully.
Sorting out concerns:
Before you can begin to help others to solve problems, you must first allow them to explore their own thoughts and emotions. You can facilitate this process by asking open ended questions that begin with “What” or “How.” Ask direct questions that encourage another to talk about the specific problem.
Summarize what the person says to you and repeat it back in your own words. Hearing you voice those concerns will help your friend to look at the situation more objectively, and to gauge how well he/she is communicating true feelings.
Once you have identified all of the problems that your friend wishes to address and all of the emotions involved, you can begin to explore options.
To help your friend identify possible courses of action, use three questions:
1. What have you tried?
2. What have you thought about trying” and
3. As we talk, what other possibilities come to mind?
Now, have the individual describe the advantages and disadvantages of each one. As the guide, be sure to get the person to look at the pros and cons. of each option.