Most of us coast through life – get an education, have a career, get together with friends and family, get old and pass on. We enjoy ups and downs, achievements and failures. It’s normal. It’s human. Life is beautiful and sad and rich. And some of us have especially difficult challenges along our journey – we face illnesses, unemployment, addictions, and crises that we had never imagined.
No matter what your journey looks like, there are 4 special words that will get you and those you love to a richer, deeper life experience. These words will shape your character, define your relationships, and frame your life’s picture with love. They are, no doubt, the most important 4 words you need to know – and use often!
The magic of this string of words is that it’s not a statement. It’s a question. In fact, it’s probably the most important question to ask your friends and loved ones. Especially those who face exceptional challenges or who are in the midst of a crisis. This question is what will lead to more fulfillment, more joy, and more connectivity than any other. It actually can be an antidote to depression and a way to embrace optimism not only in your own life, but in the lives of those around you as well.
So you’re probably wondering about these magic words – this life-changing question. Must be something complex or difficult to comprehend, right? Believe it or not, this question has been in your space since kindergarten. Or maybe even before! It’s one of the most basic questions that we share with children from when they first start to understand language and begin to express their needs:
“How can I help?”
That’s it. It’s so simple, yet so broad. Because implicit in these 4 words is a vast universe of emotion, care, and concern.
These words have incredible power, especially because they are a question. When we ask someone a question, we put the put the power solidly in their space. No longer are our friends the victims of their crisis: they are now in the driver’s seat. Here is an opportunity for them to take the reins – what would they like you to do.
See, when we face challenges, we feel overwhelmed and powerless. When friends ask us questions, it helps us feel just a tad more agency. Just a smidgen more respected and capable.
Another beautiful element of this question is the word “How”. It’s not about what I can do – it incorporates everything. Maybe help is in the emotional realm. Or the physical. Or the spiritual. “How” opens up a conversation with infinite possibilities.
When we ask a friend or loved-one “How can I help?” we implicitly put our needs aside. We put them in the center and frame our position as that of the support, the co-pilot, the assistant. We send a message that our needs come second.
Now, this is a big deal. Most of us, especially in the West, focus most of our time and energy on ourselves. Social media spews content to attract us in self-growth, self-assessment, self-esteem, self-promotion. We don’t take nearly as much time focusing on others as we can and should. Because believe it or not, all of this self-focus can actually feed into depression. If the world completely revolves around us, we are left feeling lonely and scared.
When we fully embrace, “How can I help you?” we grow in character and dig into emotional depths of connectivity with others. That sense of connectivity leads to a sense of fulfillment – self-fulfillment. We actually feel better when we give of ourselves to others.
Fulfillment. Care. Opportunity. Support. All of these are wrapped into 4 simple words and can make a world of difference both to you and to the person you’re speaking with. Try it out. Memorize it and use it often. And let me know how your days play out when you do!!