If You Can't Think of Something to Say, Just Offer Support

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I like Facebook.

I enjoy seeing photos of my friends and my daughter away at college. And like it or not, Facebook has become a valuable tool for communications professionals. We use it here at IUP, my Quota club uses it, and it's helpful.

I like checking my personal page, and I try VERY hard not to post things of the "Who cares?" variety. So, because my life is fairly uneventful, I don't post all that often.

But I have wondered what to do when I see those posts that present information reflecting a lot of personal emotion: Passing of a parent. A fire. Loss of a job. Worry over the stock market and a 401K plunge postponing retirement FOREVER (oh wait--that's me). Should I comment? What should I say?

Krys KaniastyIUP Psychology professor Krys Kaniasty to the rescue.

Even if you don't know what to say, say something simple and direct, he advises.

And he should know.

Dr. Kaniasty has done extensive study on social support after natural disasters and trauma.

In fact, he was honored by the Stress and Anxiety Research Society with the Lifetime Career Award for his work. And, he just returned from the Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference in Canberra, where he was an invited keynote presenter on the topic of support for victims of natural disasters.

Earlier this year, he was asked by web editors from Gizmodo to offer advice on how people should respond to comments on social media to people affected by disasters--most recently, the Japanese tsunami.

For example, let's say a Facebook friend and trauma survivor posts feelings that are of concern

"Don't stay silent," Kaniasty recommends in a posting titled "An Etiquette Guide to Tsunamis and Other Disasters."

"Send a private message that says something to the effect of, 'I just read your post. If you need to talk, I'm here for you.' Make sure to include a phone number--sometimes people need to talk."

Dr. Kaniasty is one of my favorite Psychology professors. He's very active in his field, respected internationally for his work, and recently co-authored a review titled "Weighing the Costs of Disaster: Consequences, Risks, and Resilience in Individuals, Families, and Communities" in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

He's a native of Poland, and is the author of a book about the 1997 Polish flood. (That publication is worthy of several blog entries alone. Check it out on his website.)

In terms of offering support, Dr. Kaniasty says in the posting that "you don't have to be a talented clinician to be helpful. Most people aren't looking for you to provide a solution; they're looking for someone to listen."

Good advice, both for Facebook and life.

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This page contains a single entry by Michelle Fryling published on October 17, 2011 9:00 AM.

The Golden Rule in the Workplace? Really? was the previous entry in this blog.

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