Before You Send That “Helpful” Email to Someone Who Is Struggling

Jason S. Comely
Dec 19, 2015 · 2 min read
Photo by Guilherme Yagui

Imagine someone who is unemployed. Every day she is out doing interviews and submitting resumes on new leads. Every day the pressure builds because her last month’s rent is still due.

Compounding this pressure is Christmas, which is approaching fast. She has no money for gifts or even a Christmas tree.

Then today, a Saturday, she receives an email from a loved one (you can decide whether it’s a family member or friend).The email says “I thought you might find this helpful” and contains a link to an article on how to deal with being unemployed over the Holidays.

It’s the same ‘watch your budget’, ‘network with friends and family’ platitudes even the most novice of job hunters has heard or read before.

Now a question: Is an email like this helpful to someone who is unemployed and financially struggling?

Likely not. It solves none of her problems. Instead, it comes off as a reminder that while everyone else is enjoying the holidays, she can’t afford to. She needs to keep looking for a job.

I like the way Ronald Rasband expressed this idea:

If you come upon a person who is drowning, would you ask if they need help — or would it be better to just jump in and save them from the deepening waters? The offer, while well meaning and often given, “Let me know if I can help” is really no help at all.

Having personally seen the hurt a thoughtless email like this can cause, I suggest the following mind hack:

Before you send that “helpful” or “interesting” email to someone who is struggling financially or otherwise, re-read it from their perspective.

And if you really truly want to be helpful — then help.

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Jason S. Comely

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