It can be hard to know how to support your friends when they’re struggling. Even if you can relate to what they’re going through with a similar experience, it can still be a challenge to support them. If a friend is going through something relatably difficult, think about what you would’ve needed to hear at the time. Although different people need different things, this is a good rule of thumb. Here are a few helpful ways to support a friend while they’re going through something.
- Keep communication open.
There is no right or wrong way to support someone, but communication is key. Sometimes a friend doesn’t need you to say anything and just wants someone to listen. It’s okay to ask questions to better understand what they’re going through and how you can help.
- Ask your friend what they need.
People often underestimate how important it is to simply ask, “do you want advice or do you just want me to listen?”
- Be a good listener.
Being a good listener is sometimes all they need. Be sure to have an open mind, and do not invalidate their struggles. It can be hurtful to open up to someone, only to have them say “that’s not that bad” or “smile more.” In my own life, people have told me that “it’s natural to feel anxious all the time” or to “just exercise more and stay busy,” but those are not helpful responses to people who are struggling.
- Understand if they need space.
At times it can feel like a struggling friend has pushed you away. It might be because they feel isolated or don’t want to bother their loved ones. This can be difficult, but make sure you stay by their side and let them know that you’re there for them.
- Help them connect to additional resources.
During these times, it may be helpful to try and guide them to external resources, such as therapy or support groups. Overall, the key to being a supportive friend is listening and helping guide them through their challenging time.
- Follow-up and check in on them.
Make sure you stay by their side and let them know that you’re there for them. Just knowing that you’re there can make all the difference to a struggling friend.
It can definitely be difficult to show your friends you’re there for them, but all you can do is your best, and what matters is that you’re trying!