She described the pressure she was under with such intensity, but I struggled at first to understand why she called the suggestions from friends pressure.
“They really are just trying to help,” she added. “They mean well.”
But what the friends didn’t realize was that rather than helping, they were actually discouraging her even more.
“You should do this,” “You need to do that” and “We can get you all set up right away” swirled around her constantly.
“Here’s what you need to do” and other similar opening statements soon prevented her from even hearing what followed in the sentence much less considering it as a possibility.
Instead, she found herself automatically rejecting the suggestions because they felt like demands.
I’ve been there too — on both sides of the equation. And other friends have expressed similar sentiments through the years.
The times I’ve been the one making the suggestions — and quite possibly adding a bit of pressure — came from good intentions.
I determined I could see more clearly than my friend or family member in the fog and sincerely wanted to help him or her find stable footing again.
In some cases, it might have been accurate, but in most cases I’m sure I was assessing the situation from my point of view rather than his or hers.
I’m also confident I didn’t have all the facts nor understand all the emotions involved.
And I do wonder if sometimes I turned my care for a friend into a project with a checklist and focused more on completing the list and achieving the goal rather than being whatever she or he actually needed during that particular season.
Rather than a matter-of-fact outline of what needs to happen, we always do better to take the time to listen and help the other person find his or her own way through the difficult situation while also gently sharing truth with grace and love.
Providing a safe space
Encouragement and support for what’s going well, reminders of what isn’t fair to take on as guilt or self-punishment, and a safe space to share fears, frustrations and what hurts, all make a tremendous difference in helping our friends through the difficult seasons of life.
Along with helping others process their situation, we can spend time helping them brainstorm, make lists, think through various ideas and even dream about what ifs — all of those can be done without forcing a decision or pushing for a path to be chosen in the moment.
And taking a few minutes to assess all that is weighing on our friend at the moment can truly change how the information we want to share is received.
Piling on rarely results in the best response, but waiting — if waiting is an option — until our friend has the capacity to take on more provides the best opportunity for him or her to receive what we want to share.
We all work through the happenings of life differently and sometimes we collide along the way, but even those moments can jolt us awake and sharpen our minds to prepare for the next steps.