Episode Description

How to help someone (who doesn’t want help)

We all know someone who is chronically unhappy. This person might not have depression, but they certainly see life from a pessimistic point of view. Because of this, no matter what you do or say, they tend to focus on everything that’s going wrong with life, instead of what’s going right. So: what can you do to bring them out of their slump?

In times like these, it can be hard to know how to help someone. You want to offer assistance, but you’re constantly getting rebuked, and it’s getting to the point where you feel just as miserable as the person you’re trying to help. 

Thankfully, there’s a few key ways you can improve the experience of helping someone with depression, anxiety or simply a pessimistic worldview. Here’s what you can do.  

How to help someone with depression, anxiety or a bad mindset

First and foremost, if you have a friend or family member who’s experiencing severe depression or anxiety, it’s important to help them get the resources they need. While you might feel equipped to talk someone through a difficult time in their life, serious mental health conditions should always be addressed by a professional. That professional could be a therapist, or, if it’s less serious, a coach

With that said, if the person you’re trying to help is simply glum, pessimistic or grumpy — and the situation isn’t potentially life-threatening — there are other ways to offer your help. In fact, the best way to help someone might be by not helping them at all. 

Here’s what we mean by that. 

When you see someone feeling bad all the time, it bothers you to the point that you want to change their demeanor, right? Because of this, you naturally focus your attention on their negativity. You try and turn that negativity into positivity in any way possible — and, when that fails, it makes you frustrated and confused. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that it’s impossible to make someone feel differently about a situation. You simply can’t control their feelings. You can, however, control your response to someone’s negativity. So, instead of feeding off of someone else’s pessimistic emotional energy, why not try demonstrating how to view the world optimistically?

Modeling positive behavior 

Modeling cheerfulness, happiness and a positive mindset is one of the best ways to mitigate pessimism in chronically upset people. There are two main reasons why:

  • Modeling happiness isn’t about changing anyone: When you demonstrate what it looks like to live a content life, you’re actively living a content life — regardless of whether the person in your life who’s upset changes or not. By letting go of their ability to ruin your mindset with their pessimism, you’re already solving the problem you’re currently experiencing: that your friend or family member is bringing you down with their negative mindset. When you can model happiness for yourself, you’re happy, and nobody can take that away from you. The positive side effect of this, of course, is that happiness is contagious, and in displaying it, you’ll be more influential in showing others how they can view the world, too.

  • Demonstrating joy puts you in a better position to help others: On top of helping you find your own inner satisfaction, modeling happiness helps you adopt the right mindset to help others more effectively. Think of it like this: if your friend is drowning in a pool, empathizing with them — in other words, feeling their negativity right alongside them — is only going to make both of you helpless. By contrast, learning how to feel peaceful, calm and content regardless of how others are feeling puts you in a better position to pull them up and out of their misery. After all, you’d be a lot more helpful to your friend by standing beside the pool and giving them a hand, instead of jumping into the water and drowning with them. 

To learn how to help someone else, help yourself first 

If there’s anything you should take away from this blog, it’s that before you can help someone who’s chronically upset, you’ve got to work on helping yourself. And what does helping yourself look like? 

It looks like finding your own sense of happiness and joy, and then showing that joy off for everyone else to see. Doing that gives others a roadmap toward optimism, and that’s exactly what a chronically upset friend needs to see. 

Still feeling overwhelmed by a depressed friend? That’s okay. We can put you in contact with one of our certified coaches right away. Not only can they help you sort out your qualms with difficult people in your life, but they can also give advice on your financial situation, your romantic relationship, your business goals and much more. 

Let’s talk, shall we?

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back. For those of you who have never heard of The Journal That Talks Back, The Journal That Talks Back is a coaching service for young professionals that leverages the power of journaling.

We'd love for you to come and check it out. Go to thejournalthattalksback.com for accessible, affordable, unlimited, and extremely effective coaching, for people between the ages of 18 and 35.

But today is Fridays with Ferne and my daughter Ferne is here for a discussion on anything under the sun. So Ferne, welcome! What do you wanna talk about today?

[00:00:53] Ferne Kotlyar: Okay, so today I wanna talk about somebody... For those of us who have somebody in their life that is very important to them, but is chronically unhappy. So you care very much about them, you want to spend time with them, but you don't know how to do something that is fun with them because they're always upset, they're always disappointed, they're always unhappy and unsatisfied and you don't know what to do. Taking them out of your life is not really an option. And you don't know, you feel kind of stuck. So what's the solution there?

[00:01:35] Kim Ades: So it's very interesting, right? Because I know a person like that in my life who is generally not happy. Very often depressed, looking at life in a very dim perspective, and it's hard to see them in that state. And so the work that often we try to do to help somebody who's feeling negatively, is to help them feel better, right?

We do everything we can to make them feel more cheerful, to help them see the world through a brighter lens, to bring them out of their funk. And so the work we tend to do is focused on their change, as opposed to our own.

And so when I work with clients who are struggling with somebody in their life who is not happy, the first thing we do is we say, look, we don't have control over the way they think or the way they feel or the way they show up in the world, we do have control over ourselves. And what we are doing is using them as our reason for feeling bad, right?

So when we see someone feeling bad all the time, it bothers us so much that we work super hard to change it. right? So we're using them as our focus of attention, and that focus of attention doesn't serve us or them. We're focused on their negativity, when we're focused on their negativity, we are also negative.

[00:03:17] Ferne Kotlyar: So would you suggest to try to help them or not at all?

[00:03:21] Kim Ades: Well, the question is, how do we help someone who is negative? Do we help someone who is negative by focusing on their negativity? We can't.

[00:03:31] Ferne Kotlyar: Well, you could offer external help, maybe a psychologist or a therapist...

[00:03:36] Kim Ades: Sure! Or a coach.

[00:03:37] Ferne Kotlyar: Or someone... Or a coach. Someone with professional skills.

[00:03:41] Kim Ades: Of course, but only if they want it.

[00:03:43] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah.

[00:03:44] Kim Ades: Right? So for sure, of course. Great idea, love it. Of course, I love it. Of course, if they are willing and wanting to go and have a conversation with someone who's an expert in their field, by all means I would encourage that.

But let's say they say, "I'm not interested, I don't want to", so what do you do? When we put a huge amount of effort into trying to change someone, because the way they show up in the world is so disturbing for us, the first thing we need to do is say, let's not be disturbed by the way they show up. Let's not use them as our reason for being unhappy as well.

And so how do we actually influence them? How do we impact them? By demonstrating and modeling cheerfulness, happiness, optimism. So rather than tuning into their negativity, we almost need to tune it out and really take a stand for being joyful and happy and having a good time.

[00:04:50] Ferne Kotlyar: And if it doesn't work? If it doesn't ...

[00:04:52] Kim Ades: It's not about working. Okay? So when you think about what works, we're measuring the wrong thing, because when you say "what if it doesn't work", you're still looking for them to change, and that's not what we're after.

We're not after them to change. We're after us to stay solidly planted in two things: our own happiness and our ability to look past their current state. And look at them as people who have the capacity for joyfulness and happiness and optimism.

So what happens is often we get stuck looking at what's immediately in front of us, their current immediate state, and we get embroiled in it, we get stuck in it, we get wrapped up in it, in the way that they are showing up now.

And what we need to do is sure, we need to give them an opportunity to talk, we can listen, but we can't get caught up and this has to do with empathy, and we'll come back to empathy in a minute, but the idea is we have to be able to envision them as happy beings.

And that is our job. Our job is not to change them, our job is to model the behavior we want other people to take on or consider, and our job is to be able to interact with this person in a way that says, "I see that you're struggling right now. This is not who you are. I see you as this person who has capacity for happiness, joy, optimism".

[00:06:31] Ferne Kotlyar: And I guess to also really see them in the best light.

[00:06:34] Kim Ades: Exactly! Exactly, because when we see them as unhappy, are we seeing them in the best light? Does that add to their happiness? It doesn't. It adds to their misery and it creates our own. So when we see someone else unhappy, we have to do our own work first, which is to say, "I see you the way you are, which is not happy, but I'm not going to use that as my reason for joining you in your misery".

[00:07:05] Ferne Kotlyar: That's good.

[00:07:06] Kim Ades: Okay? So let's talk about empathy for a minute, because this is a very, very good segue. I talk about empathy a lot, and many coaches and many people in the world have a very specific perspective on empathy. People think that empathy is a good thing, but most people don't understand what empathy really is.

Empathy is not a behavior, it's not a way of being, it's not a way of interacting, it's not about understanding someone. Empathy is an emotional experience. So when I empathize, I put myself in your shoes and I feel your emotions. That's what empathy is.

So when somebody is miserable, and I empathize, then I too, in that moment, feel misery. I feel miserable too, and my misery doesn't bring joy to anybody else. It just doesn't. So empathy when somebody is miserable isn't the right prescription. It's not the right call here.

[00:08:06] Ferne Kotlyar: Is it ever the right call?

[00:08:10] Kim Ades: It's not the right call. Not from a leadership standpoint, not from a coaching standpoint or a counseling standpoint, not from a parenting standpoint. Right? So if I see... And I use this example accurately, because it's a good one to help people understand where I'm coming from. But if I see someone drowning in a pool, how are they feeling? Describe how they might be feeling.

[00:08:32] Ferne Kotlyar: Stressed, anxious, terrified of death.

[00:08:38] Kim Ades: Yeah. Desperate,

[00:08:40] Ferne Kotlyar: Worried, desperate.

[00:08:40] Kim Ades: Scared. All of those things. Now, if I have empathy, now I suddenly feel terrified of death, desperate, scared, stressed, all of those things. And in that moment, when I feel those things, I'm unable to help that person. So it's almost like I've just jumped in the pool and started drowning right beside them because I'm so overwhelmed with my own feelings.

And so what is necessary? I need to have compassion. I need to see someone drowning and say, "Hey, looks like you need help, I can help you", but I have to be able to stand solidly on the outside of the pool and reach in and pull them out in order to do that.

I need to have belief in myself, I need to be strong and I need to be able to envision this person safely out of the pool. Just the same way that I need to envision somebody who's miserable as being safely outside of the misery pool. I have to be able to say to myself, "this is temporary, this is not a way of life".

[00:09:44] Ferne Kotlyar: What if it's not? What if that's just somebody's personality and you don't believe them capable of change?

[00:09:51] Kim Ades: Well, again, you have options. You can spend a little less time with them, but you have to look at yourself and say, how do I interact with this personality? Do I work really hard at getting them to change? Or do I accept them as they are and don't give it so much weight? Do I still find a way to enjoy myself in their company?

My job is to figure out how to enjoy myself, even when the world around me isn't optimal. Am I doing my job? Am I taking care of me? When I do that, I demonstrate to the other how to take care of self, how to take care of oneself, but I also bring joy to the exchange. So am I taking care of me?

[00:10:38] Ferne Kotlyar: Top priority.

[00:10:39] Kim Ades: Top priority. When I take care of me, I contribute to the world at a higher level.

[00:10:46] Ferne Kotlyar: Interesting.

[00:10:47] Kim Ades: When I'm miserable, I'm not contributing to the world. When I'm tuning into someone else's faults and shortcomings, I am not contributing to the world.

[00:10:57] Ferne Kotlyar: And what happens if you take so much care of yourself that you stop taking care of others? Like children or loved ones or parents, whatever.

[00:11:06] Kim Ades: Well, taking care of yourself means also taking care of your values and what's important to you. So if your children are important to you, you would take care of that too. Taking care of yourself, to the exclusion of the things that are important to you, is not taking care of yourself.

[00:11:22] Ferne Kotlyar: I like that. All right, well, thank you so much! I think this was a very enlightening discussion.

[00:11:28] Kim Ades: A little different, right? So good.

[00:11:30] Ferne Kotlyar: Always.

[00:11:30] Kim Ades: For those of you who are wondering about the subject of empathy and how to take care of someone who isn't in their best state, and you wanna talk about it more, please reach out. I love this subject. It's something that people have a hard time with, have a hard time understanding sometimes, because for so many years we've been told "you need to be empathetic", and suddenly Kim Ades shows up and says, "well, maybe not".

So, if you wanna talk about it, if you wanna have a debate, if you wanna have deeper understanding, please reach out to me. I'd love to have that conversation with you. My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com. Ferne, how do people reach you if they have a subject that they want you to bring up on this podcast?

[00:12:16] Ferne Kotlyar: Yes, I would love ideas, podcast ideas! We're trying to diversify, so please message me, reach out. My email address is Fernekotlyar@live.com.

[00:12:30] Kim Ades: Amazing. Thank you for this subject, it was a good one. And we will see you next time. Have a great week, everyone!

[00:12:36] Ferne Kotlyar: Bye, guys!

[00:12:37] Kim Ades: Bye.