Worried you'll say the wrong thing?

When offering support, it can be helpful to evaluate your relationship with the grieving person.

Susan Silk and Barry Goldman developed a simple exercise to help us know what to say and to whom to say it when we seek to support someone in crisis. It’s called "Ring Theory," and it’s very simple.

Instructions: In the center ring, write the name of the person who is struggling. Moving outward from the center, write the name(s) of the people next closest to the person in the center. Repeat as many times as necessary.

  • The person in the center of the ring can say anything they want to anyone in any circle. They can be frustrated, they can have a tantrum, they can despair - anything is fair game.
  • People in the outer circles can only complain to people who are outside of their own ring.
  • Only support should move toward the person in the center ring.
Image of concentric circles showing the person in crisis in the center, person closes to person in crisis in the next outer circle, close family and friends in the next outer circle, work colleagues, neighbors in the next outer circle, onlookers in the outermost circle.  Support In towards the person in crisis, complaining out, away from the person in crisis.

Source: Ring Theory by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman originally appeared in this L.A. Times piece.