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How can I offer help to my friend that is struggling?

We’ve all been there, seeing someone we love struggle. It’s hard and heart-wrenching. It’s tough to approach the topic because we’re afraid we might end up saying the wrong stuff that might hurt them even further.

Whenever someone we love is experiencing a challenging time, we’re quick to offer our advice and solutions, those that we think might work better for them as compared to their current coping strategies. We are eager to fix their problems for them but many times, people yearn and seek a pair of genuine listening ears.

But let’s pause and take a moment to think…

The last time when we’ve been through a distressing period and confided in someone, how did it feel? Many times, we tend to feel unattended, unheard and invalidated. Maybe it’s due to the unsolicited advice, solutions, and jumping to conclusions of our experiences. Statements like, “Oh ya, this is how you feel “insert emotion.” Or, “I think you should do this instead of…” Albeit the intention is genuine, it comes off as dismissive and we were still left feeling lost, frustrated, alone, and “I should have kept it to myself.”

There are many ways we can offer our support to our loved ones and it’s as simple as reframing the kind of questions we ask. By creating a safe space for them to speak and pour their mind, you can start by asking:

“I know it’s tough for you right now. Would you like for me to listen or would you like me to offer my advice or look for solutions together?” This allows them to feel that you’re giving them the power to choose as well as the space to think.

Questions like, “What kind of support do you need at this moment? or what can I do for you at this moment?” allows the both of you to be on the same page and direction without you offering unsolicited advice.

When you see your loved ones struggling, the simple act of asking, “Hey, I’ve been noticing a slight change in your mood lately. I’d love to hear you out whenever you’re ready.” communicates that you genuinely want to know how they’re doing and creating the safe space for them to share.

Instead of asking,

“How are you feeling?” Which is vague, try asking “how are you feeling today?” or “What has been on your mind lately?” “I can tell you’re in a tough situation. How can I support you?”

It’s important to listen attentively and non-judgementally without interrupting and offering your opinion while they’re sharing.

Emotional pain can be extremely unbearable and quite often, your loved ones might not be ready to share and it’s completely normal. Instead of saying things like, “Everything’s gonna be fine,” “It could have been worse,” or “It will pass.”

Offering compassion and empathy could provide them the emotional reassurance they need that that very present moment they’re experiencing pain.

For example, “You don’t have to go through this alone.” “I’m gonna be here for you, whenever you’re ready.” These comforting statements translate that whenever they’re ready, they know they’ll have someone to turn to for support.

Last but not least, listen with a goal of understanding and offering empathy and compassion not providing answers. When someone is struggling, there is an innate hope in them wishing that someone notices and understands the pain they’re experiencing.

Written by: Francine F.

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