How to support a struggling friend

How to support a struggling friend

Most of my posts here are essentially … self-help related articles.

That is, the focus of most articles I write or share is on what can YOU do to help YOU; what can YOU do to be happier, healthier and/or more successful in some way.

Which is, in my humble opinion, pretty important.

But one of the questions I’m FREQUENTLY asked when I’m speaking or consulting is something along the lines of … how can I help SOMEONE ELSE who’s distress or struggling?

Which is also, in my humble opinion, very important.

And that’s why today I’m sharing this great article by Elise Kalokerinos via Psyche …

Need to know

Your friend is devastated. She’s just lost her job and looks like she’s about to burst into tears in the middle of the busy coffee shop. You don’t know what to do. You want to help her, but what do you say in this horrible situation? How do you make her feel better right now, and how can you help her get through the tough time to come?

We’ve all been in situations like this, both big and small and everything in between: from a friend burning the food at their dinner party, to struggling with the loss of a loved one; from missing the bus to work, to enduring a marriage breakdown. Common wisdom suggests that a problem shared is a problem halved. We really want to help, yet we don’t quite have the words or the tactics. You might have felt yourself freeze in these moments, paralysed by the thought that anything you say or do could be a little awkward, or even make things worse.

Being supportive isn’t easy

Research shows that many people don’t really know what works best to help their friends effectively. Moreover, the support we do provide, such as giving advice, is often ineffective. Part of the challenge is that there are just so many possible ways to intervene. A survey of the methods that people used to manage their friends’ emotions identified 378 distinct strategies, including allowing the other person to vent their emotions, acting silly to make the other person laugh, and helping to rationalise the other person’s decisions. Given this large variety of strategies, it’s no wonder that deciding what to do when you have a friend in tears can be a little overwhelming.

Providing support is a skill that can be learned

The good news is that there are evidence-based support strategies you can learn that will help you provide more effective support to your friends. What’s more, providing support to your friends is good both for them and for you. Receiving social support from friends has benefits: in general, people who are supported tend to be more mentally and physically healthy. This might be because support from our friends and family is a strong buffer against the stress caused by tough times. Giving social support to friends also has benefits: when we support another person, it helps to strengthen our relationship with that person, and it makes us feel better (with the benefits being even greater when we feel like we’ve done a good job helping).

In this Guide, I will take you through five strategies to help you provide more effective emotional support to those who are struggling. For each strategy, I’ll give an example to help you see what this might look like in practice. These five strategies are broadly applicable but, later in the Guide, I’ll also cover some caveats to keep in mind…

… keep reading for the full & original article, including PRACTICAL TIPS for helping others, HERE