Blog » Talking to the laid-off

Talking to the laid-off

Keep the person positive and looking to what could happen in future

Almost all of us know someone well who has been laid off recently. So what do you do to be most supportive? Do you give them advice at a cocktail party? Tell them it will all be okay as they’re walking out of their office or plant with box in hand? Should you text them words of encouragement? Or should you just leave them alone?

The main challenge many of us face is that we worry for the other person and project how we might feel if it happened to us. We tend to see those laid off as helpless victims. We don’t know exactly what to say, but we desperately want to say and/or do something. In our rush to be supportive, it is easy to say or do the wrong thing.

Sometimes we also feel bad for our own good fortune in not being laid off as well. What may be at play in this situation is something called survivor syndrome. Sometimes people who still have jobs feel guilty and also worry that they could be next. Those feelings could negatively impact your relationships with unemployed friends. Suddenly you’re just two sad sacks wallowing in bad vibes, and that helps no one.

You don’t want to wallow in pity, but don’t go overboard raving about how great your life is when you meet up with a friend at a networking event and discover he or she has lost their job. You can share the fact that you’re going on a vacation or just got a promotion but also acknowledge what they’re going through. “Say ‘I’m sorry.’ Offer them support, and be specific.”

If your laid-off friend likes to communicate on a social networking site, it’s OK to use that technology. Although some believe the phone is preferable, e-mail also is acceptable. Understand that your friend might have a lot going on, and might even prefer to deal with some of the emotions she is feeling via email versus in person. Don’t take it personally if he or she doesn’t respond right away…

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