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People Who Are Hurting Need You More Than They Need Your Words

One of the greatest gifts someone can offer is to listen well and be present.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Not sure how to help others who are hurting? You aren't alone. Most people want to help but don’t know how. For some, reaching out to someone in crisis is scary because you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing, but yet others might over-involve themselves in someone else’s pain, making things more difficult. Following are some tips to remember, that if used, will guide your help so that it is actually helpful to others who may be facing adversity.

Listen More Than You Speak

Remember listening can be more powerful than the words you share with others. It is natural to want to fill the void of pain or confusion or grief with words, activity, and other forms of “helping.” But often what a sufferer most needs is for you to be present to whatever he or she is experiencing in the moment. If she’s sad, reflect that sadness. If he’s confused, let him know you understand.

Focus More On Your Relationship Than Your Words

Be present to the experience of the person who’s suffering. Although a lot of people feel like they need to have all the “right” answers before they can help, people who are hurting need relationship itself more than they need your words. One of the greatest gifts someone can offer is to listen well and be present to another’s suffering.

Demonstrate Warmth and Concern

When you extend care to those who are suffering, be thoughtful about what you offer. That means demonstrating warmth and concern while turning off the part of your brain that’s paying more attention to what you’re thinking than to what’s being said. In some cases, letting another know that you hear and grasp the gravity of what they’ve been through might include affirming what they are going through to allowing yourself to enter another’s grief.

Remember the Best "Fix" Isn't Always a Solution

When engaging with others whose lives had been devastated by adversity our natural human impulse is often to do something to fix the situation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place for actively addressing challenges, problem solving, and offering assistance. However, what most of us need to learn to do better is to listen well to those experiencing hardships, to be a steadfast loving presence to others who may feel like their lives are coming untethered.


Overall, being present to another’s suffering, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is what those in crisis need most. People who are hurting need your relationship more than they need your words, focus more on being present and listening than on trying to have all the "answers" or solutions.