Comfort In, Dump Out: the Etiquette of Hard Times

The bombings in Boston have many reeling with confusion, pain, and sadness. In times like this, humans tend to do two things: comfort one another and emotionally unload. But we need to be careful that we're comforting those who most need it and unloading onto those who are not already over-burdened. A simple diagram can help.

In a recent article titled, "How Not to Say the Wrong Thing," Susan Silk and Barry Goldman reveal a strategy that they call the "Ring Theory." In essence, if those most affected by hard times—Silk created the theory while dealing with breast cancer—are at the center of the circle, with each ring representing a step removed, you should be giving only comfort to those closer to the center than you and save the "dumping" for those in circles further from the center than you. This protects those in the center from having to deal with everyone's emotional overload. And as the authors remind us, we'll all have a turn in the middle circle.



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