Doing Life Together

504540_businessman_cell_phoneRick was feeling discouraged. He tried to make a significant change in his life, but was struggling. As a friend, Jerry wondered how he could help.

There are times in our lives when we want to be that supportive person who gives a friend a pep talk or helps motivate that family member to change. Here are five tips that will help toward those goals.

1) Listen and then encourage. If someone only needs a pep talk, listen first and then offer words of encouragement. Your support and physical presence makes a difference. Sometimes you can help problem-solve if that is needed, but ask before you launch into suggestions. What doesn’t work is minimizing the issue or avoiding it all together.

2) Offer to be available. So many people need someone to trust, to talk out life problems and simply give them their time. Be that go to person. Set up a follow-up time or a regular time to check on how they are doing. Basically, you show someone you care by your availability and investment in them.

3) Affirm the person and his/her strengths. Play to the positive. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t listening to the problems involved, but help the person focus on their personal strengths that help during a time of discouragement. Affirmation is often needed as we forget our strong points, our previous ability to solve an issue, or personality traits that help us make change. I like to ask, “What have you done before that has worked for you?” It reminds the person of past success.

4) Give hope. We cope better when we know there is something to hope for in the middle of a struggle. Sometimes that hope involves developing character, becoming more intimate and dependent on God, looking at the bigger picture, or resting in the assurance that all things can be used for our good.

5) Take the cue. If you offer hope and some ideas towards change  and the person rejects your help, don’t continue. You are probably pushing too much or the person isn’t ready for change. Instead, go back to listening and shift the conversation to their thoughts, “What do you think you need? What has helped you in the past? When you have tried to change and what worked before?” It is much better to get the person generating ideas for change. If they aren’t ready to think about change, empathize, ” I see how difficult this is for you. This is really bothering you, etc.”

When someone struggles, the temptation is to get in there and problem-solve for the person or tell the person what to do. To motivate change, the person has to be in a stage of change that is ready for action. Getting ready might mean working through the pros and cons of change first. Often, we move right to action before the person is ready.

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