Giving Comfort according to the “Ring Theory”

Ring TheoryI recently learned about this from Sarah, who learned about it from a missionary friend who has had to go through a lot of life challenges. At the present time, there are a lot of our friends and family who are going through some pretty horrendous challenges, and I thought I would share this with everyone to perhaps improve our ability to comfort those in need.

Susan Silk, a clinical psychologist, recently wrote an op-ed for the LA Times in which she shared her fantastic “Ring Theory” for helping people in crisis: “Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.” [FYI Kvetch is of Yiddish origin and means “to complain often or loudly.“]

Here are the rules,” Susan writes, “Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings. When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.” If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring. Comfort IN, dump OUT.

You can find much more about this on the “web” but here are a couple of links:

Giving Comfort: The Ring Theory

Use the Ring Theory to Know How to Comfort Someone

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