We all have that time in our friendships when we are needed and are called upon to listen to some sort of dramatic problem going on in our friend’s lives. As a friend, it is your responsibility to listen, and to care. But we have all been in those situations where sometimes, the advice we want to give isn’t exactly what the other person wants to hear, let alone what they will follow through with.
Sometimes being a friend during these occasions can be hard and infuriating. We want to say certain things, but we know we will come off as a bitch. Or we try to stay out of it, and we come off as non-caring. Reality is, that there is no step-by-step tutorial on how to be that perfect friend when they are in need, but the following are the simple and most successful ways on how to handle a friend going through a crisis:
Sometimes, all a friend needs is someone to simply lend an ear and be a shoulder to cry when they are in such a fragile state. We just have to accept that half the time, our friends are not expecting us to have all the answers or to even talk.
Give them a window of time to just rant their feelings to you. This gives them a chance to talk about their problems and by you listening, you give them the aid to manage important emotions. Sometimes the best advice does not comprise of any words nor answers.
2. Make Your Friend Aware That You Are Listening.
Ask them questions, reply to their texts, and allow them to talk more openly with you. Start with “how” or “why” and think of yourself as a facilitator, allowing your friend to find their own answers by helping them ask better questions.
The best way to ask these questions is by enabling them to understand both what they WANT to do about the situation and what they NEED to do. Half the time, the need is to just tell the story multiple times as if they can feel better about it the more they repeat it; and the need is to simply work it out and let it go.
3. Avoid Giving Any Advice.
It may be super tempting to discuss a similar situation you went through, but playing amateur psychiatrist sometimes is not the best move. This can be frustrating for your friend and sometimes they simply just don’t want your opinion. Not because they think that you don’t know anything about life, but because you shouldn’t believe that your 20-something-year-old friends should know anything about life either. If your friend does explicitly ask you for advice on what to do in a certain situation, you can ask them what they want to do first. The worst is when someone is feeling overwhelmed by expectations or being pressured to act a certain way and being told by someone else what to do or what the best decision is may seem like a radical solution at the moment, but really not the best one in the end.
4. Never Judge.
True friends never judge and remain open-minded. Even when it’s tough, try to be as supportive as possible. When a friend in crisis reaches out to you, odds are that they already feel pretty vulnerable. All they want is for you to hear them out without being judgmental or condescending. So rather than saying “You SHOULD have…” or “But why DIDN’T you..” you must first realize that what is done is done and right now you need to help your friend focus on what they can do to change the present.
5. Accept That You May Have to Give Some Tough Love.
Sometimes, with difficult topics, one just has to come across as a bit of a jerk in order to get a point across. Perhaps when a friend is in denial or going in circles with their conversation or being a straight up baby, you have to rip into them and tell them the truth and what they need to hear. True friends never sugar coat an issue because that is simply providing a temporary patch that heals nothing and just strokes their ego.
6. Re-Assure But Never Promise Anything.
Validate that what your friend is feeling is okay and never guarantee a specific outcome even if you have been in the same situation as them. This saves you from being blamed for anything going wrong. Re-assure your friend by keeping the expectations realistic within the realm of uncertainty. You can help your friend weigh the possible outcomes, both pros and cons so that then they can decide if it’s worth the potential reward.
7. Offer long-term support
A friend never wants a list of ways on how to recover from a bad break-up, they want the help and encouragement to get through it; a friend never wants tips on how to switch careers, they want support and courage in making this scary but positive change. Sometimes friends don’t really care about you having all the answers- all they want is to just feel that you are with them, at their side, supporting them every step of the way.
8. Make a Date.
Give them something to look forward to whether it be a night out in town or a girls night-in. Most of the time, a friend in crisis just needs to get away, let themselves relax and clear their head for a while.
As seen on Thought Catalog published on Feb. 9, 2015.