Horrible things happen to everyone – relationship breakups, retrenchment, health crisis, children going off the rails, accidents, death of loved ones. The list is endless.

When something horrible happens to someone we know, we often would like to reach out to them. To say something appropriate to them. This is reflected in one of the principles of  Building Resilience: Reach out to others

That’s all very well, but what do you actually say, particularly if it’s to a person at work? We don’t want to use clichés, and also we don’t want to say something that may be insensitive.

So we avoid them, trying to not catch their eye when walking down the corridor or just ignore them during the meeting break.

For the person going through the tough time, they experience a double whammy. They have to deal with the horrible thing, and on top of that, they also have people avoiding them!

It turns out that it’s not what you say that counts in the long run, it’s what you do that is important and is remembered.

That’s because people are unlikely to remember the actual words you say, but do remember that you were there for them, and what you did for them.

So here are three simple steps for you to take to Reach out to others who are going through tough times:

Step 1: Acknowledge their pain

Reaching out to others doesn’t mean you have to say anything profound. Platitudes or clichés are fine, because often there’s nothing else to say.

DO: Say something like:
• “I am so sorry this has happened”
• “I was shocked to hear what happened”

Bearing in mind the relationship you have with the person, and gender and ethnicity sensitivities, a hand shake, a hand on their shoulder or a hug may convey more than your words.

DONT: Say something like:
• “I understand how you feel”
• “It’s part of God’s plan”

Step 2: Be with the person

Reaching out to others is about being there for the person in their time of need.

• Eat your lunch with them during the lunch break, or have coffee with them over the weekend.
• Talk about whatever they want to talk about, which may or may not be the horrible thing

• Try to solve problems for them, unless of course they ask for your advice
• Talk about how you would deal with the issue, again unless of course they ask for your advice

Step 3: Find something practical to do for them

Reaching out to others is about helping with practical things. In times of crisis, small daily things very often get neglected. These become great opportunities for you to step in and do for the person.

• return the kids’ library books
• help the kids with their homework
• make sure there’s milk and bread and refrigerator
• mow the lawn

Reaching out to people who are going through really tough times is often easier than it seems. Their resilience will be boosted by your presence. Your resilience will ironically be boosted too.

Here is the challenge for you: who is going through a really tough time that you can you reach out to and boost their resilience?