How to Help Someone You Don’t Understand August 19, 2021

How to Help Someone You Don’t Understand

How to help someone you don’t understand. There is something in many of us as humans that we desire to help people. This desire can be manifested in many ways that are unique to each of our personal experiences. Some may be motivated to help others because they were impacted by someone who helped them. 


Some are pushed to help others because they have nobody advocating for or helping them. So many are inspired by positive experiences but I truly believe that a high number of people who make a helpful impact are those who come from a place of lack themselves. 


When you understand someone’s needs and “where they are coming from” it is easier to help. A lot of the ease comes simply from you having a skill set or understanding that can solve the problem someone else has. If you understand and agree with what they need it seems like a no-brainer to give your support.


The question becomes what if you don’t understand someone. What if you have never been in their shoes? Can you still help them?


In my book, the answer is a resounding YES! You can help someone you don’t understand. It may take more effort and patience but you can help.


How to Help Someone You Don’t Understand


1. Be an empathetic listener

Being an empathetic listener is taking yourself and your opinions and experiences out of the equation. Hearing what someone else is experiencing and accepting that however they experience or articulate something is valid. 

2. Listen to Understand not to respond or save

When listening to someone talk about their grief, take it all in. Do not assume that an immediate response is needed. This is not a trial where an immediate rebuttal is necessary. Placing blame or suggesting they see it differently is not helpful.

 3. Hold back your need to give advice

When people come to us with their grief it can be an immediate response to want to give advice or tell what they should or could do better or differently. Do your best to hold back on giving advice. Hear the person out and do your best to put yourself in their shoes.

4. You cannot correct, heal or save someone else

You can help someone you don’t understand. While this statement is true, it is not your job to correct, heal or save someone else. Much of that responsibility is ultimately owned by the person who is grieving. You can be a support system, a friend or an accountability partner. You can go deep in the trenches with them. At the end of the day it is not your job to save them. 

5. Be patient

Even though you have a desire to help others it can be a hard task. It can be hard to determine if you are having an impact or not. The truth is you may never know. Continue to be patient. Be patient with friends and loved ones you want to help and be patient with yourself. 


This quote by Dr. Caroline Leaf sums it up.

“We need to get away from the idea that we have to understand and know what people are going through in order to be compassionate, patient and kind”


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