Ask Angela: Am I helping or gossiping?

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

How do you help gather people and resources to help a friend who is struggling without coming off as a gossip?

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Dear Angela,

We have a family tradition where the morning of Thanksgiving Day we go perform acts of service for our loved ones. This Thanksgiving I felt prompted to stop by an old friend’s house to see how we might be able to serve her. I’ll call her Kate for ease of writing. The yard looked unkempt and the whole place looked almost abandoned. I left my family in the car while I went to check if anyone was still living there. After waiting for a few moments, my friend came to the door and was obviously embarrassed that I was seeing her in her current situation.

Even though the conversation was initially uncomfortable she did open up a bit and shared with me some very tragic things that have happened to her and her family. After leaving her home, I called a mutual friend of ours and mentioned that I’d seen Kate and that I was very concerned about her. During our conversation, she expressed a desire to help Kate. How can I tell Kate that she has people who are willing to support her without making her feel like she is the subject of group gossip?

Sincerely,

No Gossip

Dear No Gossip,

Kudos on a very cool Thanksgiving tradition, and I’m sorry that your friend has fallen on hard times. Help Kate to not feel like the subject of gossip by not letting her become the subject of gossip. For now, I’d commit not to call any more of your mutual friends about the situation. Follow up with Kate. Tell her almost exactly what you’ve told me: “Kate, I want to help you, and there are others who would want to help if they knew about X, Y and Z. How can we help? Will you let us help?”

Doing it this way serves a double function. On one hand, you’re reminding Kate that there are people who love her. When a person struggles, it’s easy to feel like you’re totally forgotten, and that there isn’t any kind of support system around you. Remind her that you’re there, and that others are there too, to help in her time of need.

Secondly, it’s a way of asking permission to include others in the effort. Maybe she does want help, but doesn’t want everyone to know the intimate (read: juicy) details of the past few months. Maybe she’s kicking herself right now thinking, “I know she’s going to tell everyone. I should have never told her about everything.” So yes, before you tell anyone else, get Kate’s permission and put her mind at ease.

If ultimately you feel overwhelmed and alone as you’re trying to help her, consider talking to your bishop. He’ll have her best interest at heart as well as confidentiality. You won’t have to worry about him gossiping.

Love,

Angela

Readers: How do you draw the line between sharing info to help someone vs. gossip? How do you help a friend in need but also preserve their privacy?

Write to Angela Trusty at askangela.dn@gmail.com and join the conversation by liking us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/askangelaslc. Twitter: angelatrusty

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