Not everyone likes to be supported the same way when going through the wringer. Some of us don’t even know how to ask for support or are too prideful to ask for help. (This is not me as a person…it is.) So if you do have a friend reach out looking for support, what do you do? Are you a hugger, an awkward babbler, or a wise sage who knows precisely the right thing to say? I’m usually one of those. It just depends on how well I’m functioning that day. So here are some tips on supporting someone going through a hard time.
What Not To Do
Before I get into how you should show support, let’s go over how you shouldn’t. Saying the wrong thing, even with the right intention, can make your friend feel isolated. No one likes feeling like they are the only one in the world who is going through something. It makes you feel like a freak, outcast, or Debbie downer. Here are a few phrases we should avoid saying to our friends going through it.
- “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” – This can leave your friend feeling isolated and unseen. They came to you to talk about what they are going through, so don’t take that away from them by saying you could never understand.
- “Things could be worse.” Having a glass-half-full perspective isn’t a bad thing, but when someone is going through a hard time, don’t minimize how they feel by saying it could be worse. Instead of trying to force them to change their perspective, reassure them that you will be there for them as they figure out the hard stuff.
- “I’ve been through the same thing.” This saying is both good and bad. If you just blurt it out without hearing what they have to say, it can be hard for your friend to open up. Just because you went through something similar doesn’t mean it affected you two in the same way. Let them lead the conversation and decide if your experience will help them make sort of their mess.
What To Do
Listen With Compassion
One of the best ways to show up for someone who is going through a hard time is to sit down and listen to them. Maybe they need a friend to vent about all the crappy things they have going on in their life. And if you know your friend has a hard time reaching out, you can approach them and let them know you are there for them.
Be specific. It’s sort of like planning a date. Pick a time and place for you two to meet up so they can talk to you about whatever is going on in their life. When you do sit down with them, listen and ask follow-up questions. It’s an easy way for them to know you are really listening. Remember to keep a neutral face. You don’t want to look at them with pity or too much sympathy. It can make opening up harder. And when all is said and done, avoid any judgment. Don’t judge them the same way you wouldn’t want to be judged when you are going through a hard time.
Encourage Coping Strategies
Self-care and self-love are easiest on good days. It’s hard to love yourself when you’ve been going through a hard time for days, weeks, or months. And even harder is making time for self-care when you are trying to cope with everything. When you sit down with your friend, go over some healthy coping strategies with them. Those strategies can make dealing with hard times a little easier.
Show Up For Them
I don’t know about you, but when I am going through something, the last thing I do is maintain my space. My apartment turns into a mess. It looks like a tornado and a hurricane had a child and dropped it off for me to watch. I stop doing my laundry and loading the dishwasher. I shut down, and it’s hard to get going again. If you have a friend like that, then show up for them. Have you ever had someone come over, cook you dinner, and clean your kitchen, for you know you were in a mentally tough spot? Giving your friend that sort of kickstart to take care of themselves and their space can be the wake-up call or catalyst they need.
(Be warned: If you come and wash my dishes, I might ask you to marry me.) Just ensure that all of your actions come from a place of love, not judgment. Maybe you’ve been where they are, and their spaces got out of control. Help them regain it, and you might be surprised how far an act like that will go for them.