Life isn’t always a walk in the park. We all experience tragedies and setbacks that can make life difficult.
Whether you have a friend who is considering pressing charges in a domestic violence incident, a friend who lost their job, or someone close to you lost a family member, we all have friends who go through tough times.
Don’t let it be the reason why your friendship gets uncomfortable or ends! You can help your friend through a difficult experience and build a stronger relationship at the same time when you follow these seven tips.
Check in and Really Listen
Think your friend needs some space? That could be true, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it means that you shouldn’t call, text, or stop by. Even if they could use a little space, they will appreciate that you checked in to see how they are doing. You may discover that it opens the flood gates and they are ready to talk about what’s going on.
When they do, really listen. Make eye contact, nod your head, and ask them relevant questions about their situation without jumping in and talking about a personal situation you’ve experienced that was similar. The more you check in and listen to what they have to say, the more likely they are to open up. Talking about what they’re going through can make a huge difference to their mental health.
Ask How You Can Help
Chances are, you have some ideas about what you think would be helpful in their situation. Maybe there’s some advice you want to give or you simply think they should talk more about their feelings. None of that matters. What matters is that your friend gets the help they need.
The best way to make sure you are actually helpful is to straight up ask them how you can help. Even if they just want someone to listen, by asking how you can be helpful, you can make sure you provide your friend with the support that is best for them.
Do Things to Make Their Life Easier
Asking how you can help is a great idea, but that doesn’t mean your friend has an answer. They may not know the best way you can help! That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do. Instead of trying to find ways to make their specific situation better, look for ways to make their life easier, whether they ask or not.
A few easy, nice things you can do for your friend while they’re going through a tough time include:
- Offer to babysit
- Bake them cookies
- Bring over dinner
- Buy them a movie or a book
When you’re ready to do chores or run errands, give them a call! Ask if there’s anything you can get for them from the grocery store or let them know you’re about to do laundry and ask if there’s a load you can pick up. By taking one thing off their plate you’re showing how much you care.
Avoid Giving Advice
Regardless of whether you ask how you can help or you find ways to be more helpful, the one thing you want to avoid is giving advice. No matter how kind you deliver the advice, it will almost always sound like you know better than them, and it’s likely to leave them feeling judged instead of heard. No matter how badly you want to share what you think, you should keep your thoughts to yourself!
That is, unless your friend asks if you have advice for them. In addition, if you truly think you have a piece of advice that could help, ask them if they are open to receiving advice, or if they just want to vent. Just be ready to do what they ask, even if it means keeping your mouth shut!
Focus on Their Feelings
We don’t always agree with the intensity, severity, or length of a bad experience. You may think that the car accident they were in wasn’t that bad or the relationship that ended wasn’t healthy anyway, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there to support them. Instead, focus on their feelings.
We all know what it feels like to be scared, sad, or worried. Focus on empathizing with their feelings rather than the situation and your friend will feel like you’re really there for them.
Spend Quality Time Together
Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend who is struggling is take their mind off of their struggles! Instead of rehashing the same problems over dinner or talking about their situation again and again while watching Netflix, spend quality time together.
There are a lot of great ways you can spend time together! Take your friend’s mind off of their situation by:
- Start working out together
- Go to a concert
- Go on a mini vacation together
- Start a hobby or craft together
One of the best ways you can be supportive to a friend in need is to be patient. It isn’t uncommon to feel a wedge developing in a friendship because one friend feels like the other should be over their experience by now. Just because you feel like you’ve talked through the situation doesn’t mean your friend feels that way.
Give your friend space when they need it, lend an ear often, and look for ways to make their life easier for a week, a month, or even a year. Everyone works through difficulties in their own time. If you value their friendship, you have to be patient enough to let them work through it at a pace that works for them.
Friendships aren’t always about late nights partying, laughing over dinner, and gossiping on the phone. Sometimes something happens that can pull your friendship apart, but it doesn’t have to! No matter what happened in your friend’s life, there are ways you can be there to support them, which will ultimately strengthen your relationship.