Today’s episode is about how to help a friend using a model of deepening relationships I’ve talked about before. The ORA principle. You remember it, don’t you? O – Observe. R – Reflect. A -Act. ORA. I saw this model of relating on several different levels from the responses some of you, our listeners, sent in to help another listener. Someone I’m calling “Emily.”

In episode 197, Emily wrote in, feeling overwhelmed at how to develop relationships. She said she has no friends and is lonely. I‘ll read what she wrote in a minute. I then asked all of you this question near the end of the episode,

How do you react internally to her words? How did you feel inside about what she shared?  Then, what would you do or say to Emily in response to her comments?  How would you respond to her if the two of you were in a coffee shop having a private conversation with each other?

But before we get into today’s episode, here’s what this podcast is all about. 

 Welcome to You Were Made for This

If you find yourself wanting more from your relationships, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll discover practical principles you can use to experience the life-giving relationships you were made for.

I’m your host, John Certalic, award-winning author and relationship coach, here to help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you.

To access all past and future episodes, go to the bottom of this page to the yellow “Subscribe” button, then enter your name and email address in the fields above it. The episodes are organized chronologically and are also searchable by topics, categories, and keywords.

As with every episode, our purpose today is to help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you. Our listener friend, Emily, certainly isn’t experiencing any joy in her relationships. But let’s see what we can do together to help a friend like her.

Season seven is coming to a close

But first, I want to remind you of something I’ve been mentioning in the last couple of episodes.  Next week’s show, number 200 will bring an end to season 7 of You Were Made for This.

I’ll then be taking a break from the podcast for a time to work on a few projects to better serve you. I’ll still be writing about relationships from time to time and I’d like to keep you in the know.

If you’re on my email list, I’ll send you an article or email I come across that I think you would find interesting and helpful in nurturing your relationships.

But if you’re not getting my Wednesday email, then you’re not on my email list. To get on it, just go to to give me your email address.

What can we do to help a friend like this?

Okay, On to today’s program. You may recall in episode 197 I mentioned that someone I’ll call Emily (not her real name) stumbled upon Episode 063: “Six Reasons Why We’re Not More Curious About People.” I’ll have a link to it in the show notes, or if you’re driving, just remember

Emily came across this episode 2½ years after it first aired. Listen as I read her comments about it.

“I found this page because I was trying to do some research into what is ‘wrong with me.’

“I grew up in a very strict and often abusive household, where it was constantly drilled into my head that if people wanted you to know things, they would tell you. And I was made to feel stupid for asking anything that should be “obvious.” We were basically shamed out of our curiosity as kids and taught to accept everything at face value without asking any questions. 

“Now almost 40 years old, I’m so frustrated by the fact that I don’t have any real, close friendships. 

“I don’t know how to be curious about people, and even when I want to be… I have no idea what to ask. It feels like I don’t even know how personal relationships work. I don’t know how often you’re supposed to reach out to people, exactly what parts of their lives you should be 

involved in, or how often to reach out… it sounds so silly but it’s my reality! I don’t know how to make and keep friends. 

“I’m sure I come off as selfish and self-centered… But really I just don’t know how all this works and I get overwhelmed by it.”

The question I asked our listening audience

So again, the question I asked again of our listening audience is how do you react internally to her words? How would you respond to her if the two of you were in a coffee shop having a private conversation with each other.?

Here’s a way to help a friend like this

Our first listener response in answer to this question comes from Marilyn from Minnesota. She writes:

“John, I felt like crying for this person sharing her relationship problem. I hope she has been getting some sound counseling over the years.

“When I enter an unfamiliar culture I seek out a mentor or cultural guide to walk me through the confusing web. I can ask the questions that come up and that person can give valuable advice. I believe this would be a help to this person. But how can she even find someone to do it? This is the dilemma.

“ I would love for this person to be my friend and experience life with her as a cultural guide and friend. But I suppose that’s a crazy idea as a blog is not normally used for such things.

“I had parents exactly opposite from this individual. When I was very young, we had a missionary in our home for dinner. As we talked around the table, I felt free to ask him a question. In response, he complimented me for asking the question and encouraged me to continue that practice. Interesting how that one complement thrust me forward to get to know people by asking questions. This was also a lesson for me in later years to encourage and strengthen children in little and big ways. You never know the effect it will have.

“I think you’ve done programs on asking good questions. Always an excellent topic. Some people are so good at it and some are on the opposite spectrum.”

The elements of the ORA principle in Marilyn’s response

I like how Marilyn O– observed what was going on inside of her after reading Emily’s comments. “I felt like crying.” While she couldn’t physically observe Emily, she pictured what it must have been like for her. This enabled Marilyn to R-reflect on her own experience of being in an environment that’s unfamiliar – just like the world of healthy relationships is unfamiliar to Emily. This really helped Marilyn identify with what Emily is going through

Another listener response to help a friend like Emily

A second listener response comes from Randy in Pennsylvania. Randy writes:

“This evening, I listened again to this week's Podcast and the words compassion and empathy come to mind when you shared some of “Emily's” story.  It reminds me of the broken world we live in. None of us are born into perfect families and no doubt the baggage, hurts, and scars can be passed on from one generation to another. 

“I think of “Emily” as a little girl who was conditioned to think so poorly of herself. It defined her and her ability to relate to others because at home she was made to feel stupid which likely shut her down emotionally. Here she is around 40 years old living emotionally imprisoned to being the “bad, stupid, etc.” girl that her abusive parents brought her up to think about herself.

“In many ways, I can relate as I regularly struggle with relational interactions and often feel like I don't go very deep with people. I can look at possible why's….a father who did not speak much…..showed his love through his work and providing not through his talking….he loved us dearly but his actions were his voice, not his mouth. My mom grew up with a very critical mother….hate to say it, but I picked up a bit of that type of thinking…

Act to help a friend

“So, thinking back to ‘Emily’, whatever she can do to work on changing her self-talk ‘that she is stupid and can't make friends’ would be a big step forward.  Think about working on changing her ‘mental Muscle Memory’ by replacing the negative thoughts with new, positive words, such as ‘I am deeply and completely loved by God…' something short and easy to repeat.

“John, this is a very good exercise as what you have done by sharing this story and seeking input helps us do our own processing with taking steps forward in our own growth and healing. Thanks!”

The ORA principle we see in Randy’s response

Randy O-observed the compassion and empathy that rose within him as he heard Emily’s story. He observed what her childhood was like as Emily shared parts of it. It caused Randy to R-reflect on his own growing-up years, which allowed him to more easily identify with Emily. He also offered some A-Action Emily could take. 

He puts it this way, whatever she can do to work on changing her self-talk “that she is stupid and can't make friends” would be a big step forward.  Think about working on changing her “mental Muscle Memory” by replacing the negative thoughts with new, positive words.

So what does all this mean for YOU? 

There are people like Emily all around us. Maybe you’re even one of them. Adults, who as children, were never modeled what good relationships look like. People just stuck in their relationships because they don’t know what they don’t know.

This ORA model of relating is a simple way of remembering what you can do to help a friend. We just touched upon the surface of the 3 components of this principle. There’s so much more to observing, reflecting, and acting that we don’t have time to cover here.  After season 7 of the podcast ends next week, I plan to spend more time developing this concept so I can pass it on to you.

If you forget everything else from today’s episode, here’s the one thing I hope you remember

Today’s episode about how to help a friend struggling with relationships shows that the ORA principle of deepening relationships is a useful relational tool. Observe by watching and listening. Reflect upon what you observe and what it could mean. Act based on what you’ve observed and reflected upon.


Finally, I want to stay in touch with you from time to time after season 7 ends next week

If you’re on my email list, I’ll occasionally send you information I come across that I think you would find interesting and helpful in nurturing your relationships.

But if you’re not getting my Wednesday email already, you’re not on my email list. To get on it, just go to to get on the list.

In closing, I’d also love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to think about how you can apply this simple relationship model, ORA, with the people in your life. It comes in handy for all kinds of relational interactions, especially when you want to help a friend.

Well, that’s it for today. If there’s someone in your life you think might like to hear what you just heard, please forward this episode on to them. Scroll down to the bottom of the show notes and click on one of the options in the yellow “Share This” bar.

 I have one more listener response to Emily’s dilemma that I’ll share with you next week in episode 200 to close out season seven. And then I’ll share my own thoughts and response to Emily’s challenges.

I know you’re going to like next week’s program, and I’m confident you will find it helpful. But until then, don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them.  And I’ll see you again next time, for the last time, in season 7. Goodbye for now.

Other episodes or resources related to today’s shows

021: The Most Important Relationship of All

063: Six Reasons Why We’re Not More Curious About People

088: Get Them to say “Thank You for Asking”

Last week’s episode

198: Read Your Way to Better Relationships in 2023

All past and future episodes

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