How to Be Supportive: Practical Ways to Help a Friend in Need
In life, we all go through tough times. Half of all couples will go through a divorce, millions of people suffer with substance abuse, and almost 7% of adults in the United States have Major Depressive Disorder.
It’s bad enough to go through them yourself, but watching someone you care about struggle with a rough patch in their life, it can often be harder.
You want to help them, but you’re not sure how. One of the best things you can do is think of a time when you needed support and what you wanted from your friends at that moment. But even still, knowing exactly how to be supportive isn’t always an easy thing to do.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 8 ways you can help a friend when they need it most. To learn more, just keep reading!
1. Listen to Them Fully
It can be tempting to do all the talking when your friend is in need. You want to find the right thing to say that’s going to fix all of their problems, but this is unrealistic.
Instead, make a conscious effort to listen more than you talk. Don’t give your opinion unless they ask for it, and especially not until they’ve had a chance to fully air their troubles.
As you listen, be careful not to allow your emotions to get the best of you. Your friend may be going through a situation that upsets or angers you on their behalf, but it’s important to stay as calm as you can. A calm demeanor will help them to maintain one as well.
2. Remind Them There Are Better Things to Come
If and when they do ask for your input, remind them that there is a brighter future ahead. It’s easy to get lost in the moment when we’re going through a difficult period in our lives, so being reminded of things to look forward to can be helpful.
You can even do more in this regard by planning fun activities for the two of you to do together. Choose activities that you know your friend enjoys most, whether it be a concert or a trip to the park.
3. Don’t Underestimate Small Gestures
Being a good friend doesn’t mean making grand gestures or giving large amounts of your time and money. A small gesture in a time of need can go a very long way.
Even if you’re overwhelmed by your own commitments, it’s crucial that you reach out and let them know you’re thinking about them. A heartfelt letter or even an email can make all the difference in the world.
4. Be Realistic with Yourself
Your friend is in pain, it’s understandable that you would want to offer them the world in an effort to help them. But you should only offer things that you can actually give.
Don’t be reckless with your propositions. If you know that you don’t have time to accompany them to a concert on Saturday, don’t offer to do so. Making offers that you then don’t follow through with is worse than not offering in the first place.
5. Don’t Force Them to Accept Help
It’s a hard truth to accept, but you cannot help anyone who isn’t ready to help themselves. Now, it’s absolutely fine to make a second offer after some time has passed, but you shouldn’t pester them to accept your assistance.
It might be that they truly aren’t in need of your help, or they may need more time to get to that stage. No matter what they’re going through, you must handle it on their terms.
Even something as serious as addiction needs to be approached delicately. If they’re ready, this drug rehab can help. But if they’re not, simply be there for them when they need you and remain patient.
6. Be Specific in Your Approach
Knowing what to say can be difficult, but never give vague offers when reaching out to help. It can be hard to reach out, even when you need it most, so putting the ball in their court in that respect isn’t a good route to take.
As we mentioned before, don’t be pushy. But be specific! Are you running to the grocery store? Offer to pick up what they need while you’re there.
Lending an ear and a shoulder to cry on is great, but you should offer some practical assistance along with it.
7. Don’t Make Assumptions
From an outsider’s perspective, the answer can seem simple. And when there appear to be neon lights flashing around the solution, it’s tempting to push your friend toward it. However, this is a mistake.
You should never assume that you know your friend better than they know themself. They likely feel that they aren’t in control of the situation, and trying to take even more control from them is the wrong move.
If they request that you take charge, do so. Otherwise, allow them to take the lead and help them along whatever route they choose.
8. Remain Trustworthy
In order to keep the line of communication between yourself and your friend open, it’s vital that you remain trustworthy at all times. Avoid discussing any details of their struggles with anyone else, even if that person is friends with them as well.
Sure, you would never have malicious intent, but your friend may feel betrayed and the last thing you want to do is break their trust.
Learn How to Be Supportive to Be the Best Friend You Can Be
It’s a common sentiment to view your friends as the family you choose. As such, it’s important to know how to be supportive when those you love are in need.
Your friends look to you, as well as their other friends, for guidance and strength in times of trouble. Be the best friend you can be by following this guide.
Looking for more ways to become a better friend to those closest to you? Be sure to check out our blog for a wide variety of great tips.