by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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You wanna be the best friend you can be, or the go-to person in your circle of influence?  All you need to keep in mind are the three words above…

Ask the person you’re speaking with this:

“In this situation, do you need to be Helped? Heard? or Hugged? 

I can and am willing to do any, I just need to know how best to help you.”

Sounds easy enough, right?  It seems so easy to run someone else’s life, and the mistakes or patterns that you observe that are likely the cause of their current issue would appear to be so easy to fix.  It can be hard to not just blurt out something like “Well, that is because you do this all the time…” and think you are helping.  That may actually do more harm than good in the moment.  If someone just broke up with a significant other, and you word vomit something like “Did you cheat on them?” as a reflex question, one of two things will happen.  The first possibility is that you will be wrong, and now you will have offended them and added your judgement on top of all the other things they are feeling now.  The other option is that you be will right and now you have embarrassed them on top of everything else they are feeling.

Keep this in mind..in the moment of a painful experience, people are going to react differently and need to be supported in different ways.  You are not likely to know which is which, and what the timing of need would be.  Mostly likely, throughout the period of time is when they are dealing with something they will need all three of the options presented.  Instead of guessing, ask.  If you really want to do what is best for them, ask the question that is above.

The following is a generalization, and may seem a little sexist, but keep reading, and you will find I fall into this category of need as well.  I am sure you have heard the complaint from women that “Every time I have a problem, you just try to give me solutions. ”  Women in many cases want to be heard first and foremost, and then will get around to taking action.  Men tend to want to take action, sometimes before they really should.  When a man breaks up in a relationship, one of the first things we tend to do (unhealthy as it may be) is to find someone else to date to “take away the pain”.   Like I said, these are gross generalizations, but that does not make them incorrect assumptions.  As a very sensitive man, I too want to be heard and talk about things before I decide what to do about it.  Because many of my male friends will tell me advice that is geared towards immediate action, I have found that I need to talk to several of them, share the same story, and listen to what they have to save.  I need to evaluate the collective advice and the map out a plan of action.  This does not mean getting over someone by getting under someone else when it comes to dealing with a break up.  I have tried this, and it does not work.  In fact, it can lead to some other issues that you really don’t need to deal with when you are in crisis management mode to begin with.

Sometimes I need a hug.  Not often, but on occasion in the right circumstances, this is what I want first.  I assume this goes back to early childhood, when something bad happened like a skinned knee or a friend moves away, a hug from one of your parents seemed to fix most of what ails you.  We want it to be that simple now as adults, but it isn’t.  You are dealing with things on a far greater scale than skinned knees.  Issues in life now take a lot more than a kiss o the forehead to rectify.  But even so, I think deep down many people would feel the say way, they just don’t want to admit it.  It is ok to admit this need, to be vulnerable, and to let go for a moment.  At some point, you need to remind yourself that you are an adult and you need to handle sh*t, but it doesn’t have to be immediately.  Learn what your needs are and how to handle them, and then inform those around you of what you need now.  Anyone who is a close friend wants for you to be ok, and it is highly unlikely that you are going to get any pushback in the moment after you express what it is you need from them.

Once the immediate need(s) have been met, now you are likely to move into the desire for action.  You are splitting with your significant other, and you share an apartment, now what?  This is the stage for advice and help, not on the first call immediately after the break up itself.  That is the time for sympathy and support.  But now that we are past that initial stage, most likely the time for action and help as arrived.  If they need to crash at your place for a few days or they need help moving, that is what friends are for.  Drop what you are doing and be there for them.  Do this with no expectations or reciprocation; this is a reflection of your care for them.  It is assumed that they will in fact return the favor if and when the roles are ever reversed.  If they do not, then you know that you do not have as loyal a friend as you were.  Deal with that when the time comes.  But if you want to do what is right for your friend in the moment, be there in nearly whatever capacity is needed.

If you turn to therapy for something serious you are dealing with, or a series of issues that you wish to work through, be sure to communicate this to your therapist as well.  I would encourage everyone to use the resources available for dealing with adversity and difficulties in life.  It doesn’t make you weak, it shows you are strong when you ask for help.  I need a spot in the gym when things get too heavy to feel comfortable to handle on my own.  Think of therapy in the same fashion if you need to.  As men, we need to have a purpose and a plan of action to feel whole.  This is wired in our DNA, and if you are working with a therapist would does not give you what you need, speak up.  If they cannot give you what you need, find a new one.  Ladies, if you are going to a male therapist and all the discussions are geared towards more action than you are comfortable with or capable of, speak up or find a new therapist.  Remember, these people work for you…

Everyone handles adversity differently, and this is a main reason why you should ask the questions above instead of just assuming you know what’s best.  In many cases, we offer what we would want in that situation, assuming that this is the right thing for them as well.  It may not be the case.  ASK THE QUESTION(S) and be correct instead of guessing wrong and complicating things.  Don’t try to play mind reader, most of us are really bad at that anyway.  And by the way, this works in reverse as well…when you need some support from a friend or family member, preface the conversation with what you need from them, so they can be right in choosing how to support you.  It will help improve the quality of that interaction much better and help each of you get what you actually need.

As always, I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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