That uncomfortable silence after a friend has told you his bad news or a rant of how overwhelmed she is. Break ups and broken arms and melt downs.
Even for our best friends we don’t always know what to say or do to make it better. We fumble to fill the space with salving words, or sometimes worse, with solutions. When really, all we need to do is ask:
How can I help?
This phrase works for tragedies and boo boos and bad days.
It quells panic. It can create urgency or buy time.
It’s effective with strangers and lovers.
Everyone understands it.
I learned this from my friend Michelle, who’s a super-sensitive Irish Italian social worker (read: hardwired to be helpful.) And even though she’s full of bright ideas and anecdotes, she has the presence to just pause and ask, How can I help?
It creates a soft space to meet.
It invites collaboration.
It empowers everyone.