I’m often conscious about how I am supporting a friend who needs help.
Instead of thinking about what I am going to say when they have finished talking, which is how I used to have a conversation, I actually put the effort in to try and listen. Really listen.
A lot of the time when we are talking to loved ones, friends, or family about our problems or the negative feelings we are experiencing, we are looking for somebody to a) listen and b) comfort us.
Sometimes that comfort can be found in the other person having empathy. Empathy is great because you feel less alone in how you are feeling or what you are going through, however if you lack the required empathy it can be kinda hard to decide upon what is the right thing to say.
But sometimes empathy isn’t quite right either. Sometimes empathy can steer the conversation away from the one seeking comfort, which could alienate said person and not really address their pain.
With that in mind, here are a few things we can do to help become better listeners and consequently, better at supporting our friends in their time of need:
If you’re going to give a pep talk, include some facts
Saying things like; “everything will work out in the end”, “you’ll be fine”, or “I’m sure things will be okay”; may have good intention behind them, but they are a bit vague and somewhat empty. Instead, acknowledge how they have made it through tough times before, how they have previously excelled at something that relates to the problem – something that reminds them that they have achieved great things before and they have shown strength throughout their lives, and that they can do it again.
Be there and be there first
If you know that your friend is suffering or has had been through a rough time recently, let them know that you are thinking of them. Be the person to text first. Reach out to them and ask them how they are. If they give a bit of a short reply (for example; “I’m fine thanks, how are you?”, it would probably be worth probing a little bit further to get them to open up. Ask them how work is, how things are at home, or something else along those lines. Just let them know that you care by actually asking how they are doing.
Offer other ways to help them
A listening ear can be all that is needed, but sometimes when a person is struggling to get out of bed or even think straight, general life chores can begin to pile up. You could offer to cook, grab some toiletries, or pop to the post office for them. Though British politeness may get in the way, your friend will really appreciate you offering to do something for them.
Don’t guilt them
Might seem pretty obvious but don’t guilty your friends into appreciating what they already have in their lives – it won’t make them feel happy. On several occasions, my family have tried to comfort me by reminding me that I indeed have a loving family around me, which of course is something that is very true and comes from a place of good intention, however, it made me feel shit. I felt guilty for feeling sad, I felt like my pain wasn’t being acknowledged. So instead of trying to point out what this person has to be happy about, do the points listed above.
What do you do to help others? Got any tips that I’ve missed out?