Best for: Those who have friends or family going through a rough time, or who someday will have friends or family going through a rough time (so, all of us).
In a nutshell: Dr. Crowe and Ms. McDowell provide practical ways to be there for the people you care about when they are experiencing the worst.
Line that sticks with me: “Just because you have experienced the same thing as someone else does not mean you know how they feel.”
Why I chose it: Two reasons: I write my own modern etiquette blog, and I get a lot of questions on this topic; and I’ve had a lot of friends go through some really rough times lately and want to get better at being there for them.
Review: What a great idea for a book! It’s easy to read, full of practical advice, reassuring stories, and serious examples that show how you can go wrong and how you can do better. Both authors have gone through some shit, but they also have researched the topics and interviewed people. Plus, Ms. McDowell is behind Empathy Cards (pictured above).
But it isn’t about shaming your efforts or instilling the fear that you’ll say the wrong thing. In fact, from the very beginning, the authors are clear that while yes, it is possible that you’ll screw up (and they go into detail in the last section, with example and language to avoid), you really need to set that fear aside and just do what you can.
I think probably the most helpful bit is the “Empathy Menu.” It’s basically four pages of different roles you can take on to be supportive. I appreciate it because the point is to focus on what you’re good at being able to offer, as opposed to trying to do something that ultimately won’t work. Don’t offer to cook if you can’t or don’t have time. It’s okay to be the person who can provide child care but not the person who can put together a great playlist for them to listen to while undergoing a medical procedure.
It is inevitable that people we love (as well as ourselves) will experience something awful at some point in their lives. I suggest taking a day or two to read this so you’re prepared, and then keep it on the shelf so you can refer to it when you just aren’t sure what you can do for your friend or family member.