Tips to Help Others

Posted October 9, 2017

This list comes from the Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services  (KAMS.) Contributors include Char Henton, Mediation Coordinator; Forrest Buhler, Staff Attorney; Charlie Griffin, Associate Research Professor, School for Family Studies and Human Services, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University. It has been shortened to be more applicable to family/friends. For professionals interested in learning more suggestions for speaking with clients, please contact KAMS for the full list.


  • Take time.
  • Listen to what is being said and NOT being said.
  • Give time to share thoughts - Silence is okay.
  • Tears are okay.

Starting the conversation​

  • Start slow, don't jump into the heavy stuff.

Keep them focused

  • "What's your biggest concern?"
  • "If today you could change ONE thing, what would it be?"
  • Focus on the present - things that CAN be changed, not on what can't be changed.

Encourage connection. Don't be alone.

  • Encourage the person to not face stressful situations alone.
  • Encourage the person to speak with their closest support system. 
  • A support system may include other family members, friends, pastors, hired man, employer, accountant, attorney, etc.

Empower them

  • Help them learn how to help themselves
  • Encourage them. "It's OK to ask for help."
  • Pride is important. Support them in asking for help.
  • Give "homework" and then ask for follow ups.


  • Assure that what they have shared with you is confidential.
  • It require's a lot of trust to share their whole story.
  • Be transparent. It's vital to help them.

Elephant in the room

  • "So what else is going on?" "Tell me what's going on" often uncovers real issues.
  • These kinds of statements sometimes give permission to open up.
  • It is often more than loan delinquency at the bank. i.e. no money for family living expenses, depression, guilt, domestic violence, substance abuse, addictions, health issues, etc.
  • Be ready when you ask these questions. You may learn more than what you expect.

Don't try to solve every problem

  • Assure the person there is help and support
  • May require a different approach, you are helping them find a solution.

Show that you care

  • Be as "non-judgemental as your dog.

Your most important gift is your listening, your acceptance and your sincere interest in them. To know that you are not alone gives courage.

Charlie Griffin, Associate Research Professor

College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University