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yankeetooter's avatar

Best way to handle this situation?

Asked by yankeetooter (8443 points ) September 4th, 2012

Okay…here’s the deal. I have an acquaintance who I think the world of (he may or may not be aware of this…) I found out recently, and quite by happenstance, that he lost one of his jobs and is really hurting over this.

Without letting on that I know (which I feel might make him feel really awkward), how can I best be supportive of him? It literally could not have happened to a nicer guy, and it makes me rather upset to know this happened to him. Being a really empathetic person, I am really feeling his pain right now, and hate feeling helpless to do something for him. Advice?

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28 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Just talking to him and showing him you care will be a huge first step in helping him though this tough turn of events.

yankeetooter's avatar

Thanks, @Cruiser. I really feel like that is all I can do, and yet I wish there was something more tangible to be done…

Bellatrix's avatar

If you don’t want him to know you know he lost his job, not much. Not sure what your relationship usually consists of but I would ask him if he fancies a coffee or see if he wants to see a film. Just be a friend.

Jeruba's avatar

@yankeetooter, if this happens to be the same young man that we know you’ve taken a special interest in for a long while, I think it might be best if you just let him be.

I truly don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but the long-term evidence suggests that the interest is one-sided. You could put both him and you in an awkward spot if it seemed like you were using this opportunity to get closer when he is in a vulnerable state. He would be forced to try to take care of your feelings at a time when he really needs his resources to take care of his own.

gailcalled's avatar

Since you are not supposed to know about the job loss, you must behave exactly as you would without that knowledge.

Would you, under normal circumstances, chat him up or suggest you both have a coffee? If the answer is “no,” then you do nothing.

You have, therefore, no reason to be supportive of him, whatever that means exactly.

@Jeruba raises an interesting and reasonable point. Another point to consider is that if he wanted you to know, he would tell you.

yankeetooter's avatar

@Jeruba…not the same guy. Totally different person than the one I’ve spoken of before…someone who helped me get through some of that difficulty, in fact…and now he is hurting, and I’m at a loss for what I can do…

yankeetooter's avatar

@gailcalled,...well as I said above, not the same guy. And I know I can’t let on that I know, as I don’t want to add to any of his pain. Just looking for subtle ways of being supportive.

gailcalled's avatar

So, if you don’t officially know that he is in pain, then you have no official reason to be supportive. You have a dilemma here.

yankeetooter's avatar

@gailcalled…but one can still try. One can be more sensitive to what that person is going through, can’t they?

gailcalled's avatar

One, meaning you, can behave any way you want. You asked for advice.
What ideas have you come up with?

yankeetooter's avatar

Not sure, to be honest. It’s a dilemma, as you said, @gailcalled. I won’t see him before next week. Sometimes I think I get myself too wrapped up in other’s problems…

Bellatrix's avatar

I would just play it by ear. Do exactly as you normally do unless he raises the topic. That’s the safest way to handle things.

wk143sk's avatar

Let him come to you. If he wants to talk about it, then he will.

gailcalled's avatar

@yankeetooter: Sometimes I think I get myself too wrapped up in other’s problems…

That appears to be true from what you have written on this site. If that behavior backfires and turns out to not be a good thing for you, you need to learn how to retrain or control your impulses…Remember this bit of the Hippocratic oath and apply it to yourself.

“First, do no harm.”

DarknessWithin's avatar

There is nothing you can do without revealing that you know his situation and you probably should do just that.
There is a reason he has not told you, he probably does not want any pity; this can be especially true for a guy. Guys tend to be too proud to admit their pain because something like losing a job can feel emasculating. It’s a fact that guys choose to get drunk or act out in some way rather than talk about their feelings like women can. Guys do not like to talk about their feelings or get all mushy about them. I read this in my text book for an Interpersonal Communications class I took a few years ago.

Empathy is a rare and difficult quality, I admire it very much but it can also be or feel(to the other person) intrusive. Some situations are not your business to get yourself involved in. If he ends up finding out that you know through your consoling behavior, which is sneaky and dishonest that will likely upset him further.

I think it might be best to just leave him be and let him come to you when he’s ready.

yankeetooter's avatar

So being consoling is sneaky and dishonest…wow!

gailcalled's avatar

@yankeetooter: You are sabotaging yourself here by that snide and silly response. We are not talking about the abstraction “consolation” but your very specific situation.

@Darkness could have been more tactful (actually, it is hard to imagine him being less tactful) but that is irrelevant. He could also have changed his modifiers so that he means your knowledge was obtained accidentally.

Don’t get sidetracked. Being a caring person is different than rushing in where angels fear to tread.

Jeruba's avatar

Do not send him an anonymous gift.

yankeetooter's avatar

Lol! @Jeruba…where did that come from? Why would I do that?

yankeetooter's avatar

@gailcalled…I’m not sabotaging myself at all…I found it half laughable that those adjectives would have been used to describe my situation…

DarknessWithin's avatar

@yankeetooter No not at all. I meant consoling while at the same time keeping from him that you even know the situation. If you are going to try to console him which I don’t suggest, it’s only right to tell him that you know.

@gailcalled Um I am not actually sure I understand what are getting at, I am even only assuming that you are trying to correct me. First of all I am a girl, and second of course I did not mean to imply that she obtained the information rudely or purposefully. I am just saying that if he wanted her comfort he probably would have told her himself. So he probably wants his space.

Sorry I am not always good with words although I try.

gailcalled's avatar

@DarknessWithin: You accused @yankeetooter of “sneaky and dishonest behavior,” which is way too vituperative for what she is talking about. It might be fairer to call her well-meaning but misguided.

You and I agree about her not being able to honesty know because he didn’t tell her, however. I have no interest in your gender. That is irrelevant.

DarknessWithin's avatar

@gailcalled I did not mean it in that way. All my main point was is that it’s not a good idea to console someone when as far as they are concerned you don’t even know the situation; and that her friend likely did not tell her himself because he wants his space rather than pity. I did not intend to accuse anyone of anything. I DID however imply her well meaning by saying how much I admire empathy. Both of you seemed to have missed those parts of my post.
I wish I could edit and reword myself but I can not.

And I only mentioned my gender because I thought you were speaking of me as ‘He’.

yankeetooter's avatar

@DarknessWithin…I didn’t miss that part, but I still was in shock about the other words you used. I do appreciate those thoughts of yours. And actually, he might tell me when I see him next week; it will be the first time in a little while we have gotten to see each other. Of course I can’t “console him” without knowing, and I will respect his not wanting to share the news with me if he chooses not to.

The whole point of the original question was to express my frustration of knowing a friend is hurting and not knowing how to help…and to see if there was anything I might do to be supportive without necessarily bringing up the topic. And it’s not my fault I found out…the information came by way of a third person. Blame them if you want…I was a victim of circumstance.

Oh, I could tell him that I know, but I worry that that would make him feel embarrassed/awkward, which is the last thing I want, not do I wish to cause friction between him and my source of information…

DarknessWithin's avatar

@yankeetooter Once again I am sorry for my words. I must have spent at least ten minutes composing that post trying to figure out how to phrase my thoughts, but even then I can fail.

Also once again I never said or implied that you came by the information on purpose, all I meant by that is if he found out that you knew without his having told you himself that could be upsetting for him not because he’d blame you but because it’s his business to tell you and he is likely waiting for the right moment to. Thus why trying to console him before he comes to you not being a good option.

For example, whenever my aunt tells me something about someone that is personal she makes a point of telling me not to tell the person that I know.

yankeetooter's avatar

Yeah…I got that. There are ways to be mindful (and thereby considerate) of a person’s situation without bringing it up…that was what I was wanting people’s feedback on. Some are obvious, like maybe not asking how that job is going, or not going around complaining about your own job too much.

DarknessWithin's avatar

@yankeetooter Yeah I have a friend who sometimes makes complaints about her job around me who has applied to places countless times and never been called let alone hired. That irritates me when people complain about their jobs.

yankeetooter's avatar

Exactly…this is the type of stuff that I am talking about (although I am not too much of a griper anyway, since it turns me off when others do it.)

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