Respectfully Yours: friend in need
Dear Jacquelyn, I have a very good friend who is dealing with a chronic illness. I never know what to say or do when she is having a bad day. How do I show support for her without over stepping my boundaries? I want to be helpful, not cause her more stress.
When a friend or family member is ill, it’s often difficult to know what to say and do. We may feel tongue-tied or blurt out the wrong thing and inadvertently upset the person. But the right words can provide comfort as well as offer encouragement. If you’re not sure what to say, keep it simple by saying, “You’ve been through a lot lately. How are you doing?” This gives your friend a chance to open up. The message you convey should always be “I’m here to support you whatever way I can.”
While you’re obviously trying to comfort your friend, saying something like “I’m sorry you’re having a rough day” is sometimes enough and emphasizes that you truly care. People have different ways of coping, so staying positive and empathetic shows that you are with that person emotionally.
The surest way to be there for your friend is to offer to help. Be sincere and specific with your offer. Give your friend options and let her choose what’s genuinely useful, such as buying groceries, driving to doctor’s appointments, or doing household chores. Offering practical support may be exactly what helps your friend through her most difficult days. Your encouragement, kindness, and love will be what helps your friend the most.
Respectfully yours, Jacquelyn
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation. All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst