Humans beings are just naturally social creatures, some of us more so than others. Most of us enjoy our interactions with others, sharing thoughts and happenings and learning from our friends. While many of the relationships we have are fairly casual, there are other “close” associations that matter because they’re with people we truly care about. These might be work associates, neighbors, relatives or a spouse or relationship, partner. They’re relationships we value but are also relationships that can pose problems when we see something wrong.
Regardless of how much we think of, or care about, someone close to us, there may be times when we find something troubling or disturbing about that person. At such times we may agonize over whether we should share our opinion or observations, realizing that doing so might jeopardize the relationship. It can be a difficult decision to make even when the person in question is a spouse or other close relative.
While we all want to avoid losing a close friend, we also want to be responsible and to offer the help we think is needed. There’s no foolproof way to pass on our concerns but there are ways to approach delicate subjects that minimize the risk of losing a friend. One way is to use what’s sometimes called a “caring confrontation” or a “one-two” approach. This begins by having the conversation in a private place and just between the two of you.
Part one is simply describing in an objective, non-judgmental way what you have observed. You might use positive statements like, “You don’t seem as happy lately. Am I right?,” rather than saying, “You sure are depressed these days.”
Part “two” of this approach is to question whether your friend feels your observation is accurate. Is what you stated representative of things not going well? If your friend agrees that there’s something wrong, the next step is to offer an invitation to discuss it. The idea is not to position yourself as an authority trying to “fix” the issue. Sometimes simply giving someone an opportunity to discuss what’s wrong can be very helpful. If you think a professional could help, you might make that observation in a positive way. The point is not to be confrontational, but rather to give your friend the support and encouragement needed to find help and return to a more happy, positive life.
This article is provided by the American Counseling Association. Visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.