The Most Helpful Question in the World

On the last day Christine was in Calgary for the Vivid & Brave launch, we had one last lunch. Over gluten free brown rice pasta with cherry tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese (for me) and a bunless burger and yam frites (for her), we were picking through a current struggle I was going through, one that had left me feeling mostly sad. As I blinked back tears, because I was trying hard to not fall apart in the middle of the lunch time rush, Christine paused and asked:

“What do you need from me right now? Do you want me to tell you that everything will be okay, or do you want me to tell you that it won’t?”

This is not the first time she’s done this. In fact, this a skill she taught me. To ask a friend in need exactly what they need in the moment. Rather than trying to stab wildly at possible methods of comfort or assistance, just ask.

The benefits of this are immediately apparent. First, when she asked, I was challenged to really consider what I needed and wanted out of this interaction with my friend, and then put it into words. How many times have you just wanted a hug and gotten a harsh dose of tough love that left you feeling worse? Or the opposite? A hug when what you needed was a shove? Or maybe you aren’t sure what you want. So now you have to think about it – what do I need, right now, to start to feel better about this situation? How will it improve? What will make it worse?

More than that, I was challenged to consider what I  ultimately wanted out the situation that had me so tied in knots – something I’d also struggled with putting into words. I knew that what was happening wasn’t what I wanted, and that I felt hurt and disappointed and unfulfilled, but I wasn’t sure why – or how to make it better.

So often as women, we let our needs come second (or third, or fourth!) to the needs of everyone around us. This stops all of that in its tracks. Your needs are dragged, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the light.

As the support giver, you also don’t have to feel around in the dark anymore! We’ve all had that moment when what we thought was going to help seems to hurt more. Maybe we’ve even made a silent vow to ourselves not to offer to help anymore, because we always seem to get it wrong.

This is a powerful tool among friends, but now imagine it in your intimate relationship. What if you could clearly articulate your needs to your partner? Or your partner could clearly articulate theirs to you?  Why do we insist on everyone having to blindly attempt to find the solution when we could just illuminate the situation for them and ourselves?

Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

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