Option Be

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In a recent conversation with On Being host Krista Tippett, Sheryl Sandberg offered practical tools we can use to comfort and connect with each other, especially during hard times. Two lessons she shared really resonated with me:

1. “How are you today?” is the new “How are you?”

MS. SANDBERG: When I saw people that I knew were facing real adversity, I would say, “How are you?” figuring if they wanted to talk, they would talk. But it’s so hard to bring this up. “Well, how am I? OK, my husband just died. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t know how to parent my children alone. And I’m quite certain I’ll never feel a moment of happiness again.” I mean, that’s not an answer to the question, “How are you?” But if you say to someone, “How are you today? I know you are suffering. If you want to talk about it, I’m here,” then people can bring it up.

2. Just do something.

MS. SANDBERG: Do something specific rather than offering to do anything. I used to do this all the time. If anyone was going through something hard, I would say, “Is there anything I can do?” And I meant it. I would’ve done anything they asked. But if you ask that question, not on purpose, but you’re kind of shifting the burden to the person who needs the help.

And it’s hard to ask. It’s hard to ask for the big things. It’s hard to ask — “Please make sure my kids and I are invited to somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner, because if it’s just going to be the three of us, that’s going to be unbearably sad.” “Don’t leave us alone for the Jewish holidays for the next 20 years.” You can’t ask that. Or I couldn’t. Even, “God, it would be so nice to have someone bring us dinner.” That’s hard to ask for too.

My amazing colleague, Dan Levee, he and his wonderful wife, they unfortunately lost their son. And in the long time they were in the hospital with him before he passed away, he had some great examples. Friends would text him, “What do you not want on a burger?” “I’m in the lobby of the hospital for a hug for the next hour whether you want one or not.” Those were the people who really helped. So urging people — just do something. Just do something rather than ask if you can do anything, I think, again kicks the elephant out of the room and shows people that you are there with them.

Hear the full interview
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