Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Good Friends

23 Responses

  • Gee,

    Thank you for this Emma. It's incredibly helpful.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Nigel McNie,

    What an awesome set of advice. Thank you.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2012 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    +1

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    It's also probably not a good idea to write them an open letter.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Head full.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rageaholic,

    Thank you for this Emma, it is so important. I read about ring theory earlier this year while I was being the good friend and found it immensely helpful. This feels like great advice and I will sadly probably be revisiting this coloumn for reminders.

    Anyway. Thank you. A Lot.

    Eden • Since Nov 2010 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    On average, it takes seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship. Don’t think this is going to be a week where you help them leave, and then everything will be happily ever after. This is going to be a long process. It’s going to be hard.

    I think this is something a lot of people forget. It will take a long time... and leaving an such a relationship is just the start.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Good advice: do not give advice. You can, however, say, 'You are the expert on your own life and know what is best for you. How can I support you?'

    But if you really want to give an alternative view you could say

    'I don't have any personal experience of your situation, but if I was I would imagine that I would do/feel/think ...'

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Kirsten Brethouwer,

    thank you Emma, great post. Often when we don't know what to say it's because saying things is not what is most important, it's being with.

    Waiheke Island • Since Nov 2006 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    As someone with a pathological need to give advice and "fix" things I can testify as to how very very hard it is to follow Emma's excellent advice. An advice column about not giving advice ...

    I can also testify how valuable it is to have friends who can just listen and support when you need them. For me it was depression that caused that need and at that time I had to gravitate towards those friends who were able to simply (hah!) give support. Those friends who couldn't, I had to forgive because lord knows I'm crap at it so why should they be good at it, but I did need to spend less time with them.

    Now I try to be a friend that can just listen, it's so very hard, but if you care about your friends you try to do the hard things don't you.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to andin,

    I think this is something a lot of people forget. It will take a long time… and leaving an such a relationship is just the start.

    It's also the most dangerous bit. Abusive partners who are left often don't just go, "Well okay then. Guess that's over."

    But if you really want to give an alternative view you could say

    ‘I don’t have any personal experience of your situation, but if I was I would imagine that I would do/feel/think …’

    But I really wish you wouldn't, unless your friend has actually asked for advice. If they haven't, why are you telling them what you think you would do? (Because it may not be what you would actually do.)

    Those friends who couldn’t, I had to forgive because lord knows I’m crap at it so why should they be good at it, but I did need to spend less time with them.

    This, so much. The friends who have managed to support me - and even more, those who've managed to be supportive of both me and my partner - are extraordinary. Those who've stumbled are just human. I don't blame them at all. But I also sometimes can't deal with them.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    The Ring Theory. Otherwise known as the Kvetching, or Comfort, Circle. I know it well. We used this when Carol got ill, and then when she died. I emailed everyone in our circle this article,. (There was a joke that I should assign which circle people were in as they came to the hospital. I did not.) It helped Carol's husband, and her other best friend, and I, very much. I had only thought of it in terms of illness though, Emma, but of course it would be applicable to any situation where your friend's in some distress. Thanks for that. As always.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Very , very well put Emma. Much to reflect on.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Yes, some good things to think about
    You want to help but it is not about you and advice is only helpful when it is asked for

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    ou want to help but it is not about you and advice is only helpful when it is asked for

    In my (large) whanau, there are people who will immediately ask for help, and some who never quite will.

    With the latter, the protocol - huh!~ What we do- is be in the vicinity and send small gifts of food and/or drink/flowers/plants.

    With the middle people? Ascertain whether they'd like a visit (or their dog walked, or something of that ilk) and then be a quiet listener-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Emma, I think you're amazing. And this is a situation where I'm delighted to be told what to do!

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Thank you, Emma.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Helen Marie,

    Thank you Emma. This has been quite enlightening for me. I see now that I've been making well-intentioned stuff ups when trying to help in an abusive situation that crops up regularly within my family. I tend to offer suggestions starting with "you need to" and "why don't you just" instead of simply listening, comforting or offering a safe place. Next time I will do things differently.

    I feel a bit silly that this is such a revelation to me. I know first hand how those "why didn't you just…(fight back, leave, tell someone etc)" questions made me feel when I was floundering in my own abusive situations. It felt like I was being told I'd done it all wrong and was stupid. Unhelpful and unnecessary as I was already feeling those things anyway.
    Again, thank you. Lots to think about.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Good advice Emma and so very hard to do, the closer you are to the person.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    Thank you for this Emma.

    I have just recently had a work colleague in what *I personally* would describe as an abusive situation. Your piece shows me the stuff I did right, and the stuff I did wrong, so thank you. Unfortunately I will almost certainly need to refer back to this multiple times in the coming years. Again: thank you so much for (hopefully) helping me to be a better support to people around me, it means the world to me.

    I had to gravitate towards those friends who were able to simply (hah!) give support. Those friends who couldn’t, I had to forgive because lord knows I’m crap at it so why should they be good at it, but I did need to spend less time with them.

    This mirrors my own lived experience with depression. I have since become much better at sitting down and shutting up haha. It is the greatest gift that being unwell has given me - the ability to listen and refrain from giving advice in similar cases.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    The "ring theory" when I first read about it, felt like a really good codification of stuff that I was trying to implement in my own life. Vent outwards, not inwards.

    I fall down majorly when it comes to the advice-giving thing. Unfortunately, my job is about troubleshooting and figuring shit out, so if someone starts talking about a problem to me, no prizes for guessing what my first response is. At least as I get older, I am more aware of how patronising that can be. It's an ongoing "learning experience", let's just say.

    Another aspect, though, is my own personal limits. If someone seems to be stuck in constant rut of Problem X, from the fairly routine through to the quite serious, and my own reserves are low, there very much is a limit to how much I can listen to someone's tale of woe without feeling overburdened myself. I think one of the mechanisms of advice-giving - for me at my weaker times, and kind of independent of the troubleshooting tendency - is that if my empathy circuits are overloaded, advice-giving can be a means of trying to show that I care, even if I can't give them what it is they're really asking for.

    While I actually know it's not productive, the conundrum of gracefully saying to someone who is seriously and genuinely struggling, "look, I actually have my own [less serious, perhaps] crap to contend with, and I feel like more and more is being dumped on me by you right now", while indicating that I actually still fundamentally care, is not one I've solved yet. Advice welcome. Heh.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to TracyMac,

    It's a very delicate negotiation, I believe. But one worth trying, all the same.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    [in response to Jackie]
    Yes, I've been really fortunate that some people who've had that conversation with me have been really skilled at it. And that goes the range from "I can't really handle this right now" to "it's time to get your head out of your arse".

    ...Thinking more, it seems to be a skill I select partners for. Hopefully I'll acquire it myself one day.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

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