Handling terrible news delivered by “the call”
“The call” comes. You’re taken off-guard. The news is not good. For the caller, the news is tragic. You’re overwhelmed, but the situation demands an immediate response, and how you respond determines whether you help your friend or whether you fail him or her. The call might be about a loved one who is sick or who has died. It might be about a financial loss or medical diagnosis. It might be some catastrophic loss or perhaps a serious setback. Over a lifetime we might receive many such calls. The question is: What do we do? How do we respond?
Responding to “the call”
Let’s begin with the least helpful but perhaps most common response: “That’s horrible. Please let me know if I can do ANYTHING to help. Just call–anytime.” The response is polite; you appear to want to help. Your part is played and you hang up the phone. You privately hope you don’t get that “anytime” call; you hope your friend can handle it without your help. Or you’ll help out tomorrow or the next day–if asked, of course. You hope your friend will be convinced you care. Yes, you’ve done your part and your friend knows you’re sad too. But do you care? More importantly, do you want to help?
If you really care–and really want to help–then help! You do this by responding: “This must be overwhelming for you. What can I do for you right now? I’d like to. . . , would that be OK?” Then fill in the blank. Perhaps you’d say: “This must be overwhelming for you. Can I help by coming over right now? I would like to just be with you for a few minutes. What can I bring you?” Or maybe you’d fill in the blank with: “I’d like to drive you to the hospital” or “I’m coming to the hospital to see you; is there anyone or anything you’d like me to pick up and bring along?” Or in a work situation, you might say: “I’m going to see that your projects are taken care of; don’t worry, we can handle things until you get back. What else can we do for you right now?”
Showing your concern through action and preparation
You get the idea. You TELL the person that you’re going to take action to help them with their obligations or just to make them feel better. And then you do it. You show your love, care, concern through action, rather than the vague “Call if you need anything.” You KNOW they need something. Figure out what that something is and then do it for them.
Before you get that next call, think about what people need from you and what friends expect from you. What would YOU want if you were the caller. Give some thought to “the call” so you can be helpful when it comes. Give some thought to what you can do to lighten the burden of others when they call you in distress and then be prepared to do it. You’ll feel better about yourself when lighten the load of those you love–those who chose to call and share their heavy heart with you. And more importantly, they’ll feel better.
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