Be it mental health issues, relationship problems or money struggles, we all go through rough patches from time to time. While many of us will try to work through problems ourselves, having a dependable support network around us can make a huge difference and help us to see a brighter future.
If you think you’ve noticed a friend having a hard time, here are four tips on how to offer your support.
Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their problems, especially if they’re not the type to dominate the conversation. Taking the time to lend a sympathetic ear allows them to unload as well as letting you assess if there really is a problem, identify the possible cause and offer useful suggestions.
Taking a backseat in the conversation gives your friend the opportunity to ask for help themselves. If you can remain measured and avoid judgement, they may feel more comfortable coming to you in the future.
Even with the best of intentions, the question of ‘how can I help?’ is a vague one and can even give extra work to a friend who’s under pressure. Specific offers are more likely to be helpful, so try to tailor yours to your friend’s situation and make sure you can follow through on it.
This could mean picking up food at the supermarket for a friend who is too ill to leave the house or offering childcare to a person short on free time. Getting specific takes the onus off your friend and saves them feeling like they’re making unreasonable demands.
Topics such as money can be sensitive, but asking for help isn’t always easy. If a friend does confide in you, don’t share this information with anyone else unless absolutely necessary. More of us than ever before are struggling financially, so if the problem is money, you could offer to help them weigh up their options and make a practical plan – but keep it private. The feeling of being talked about isn’t a nice one even if it’s amongst the people we love, so don’t break your friend’s trust.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remain a friend. Try to avoid completely taking on the role of parent, teacher or saviour, especially if your friend hasn’t asked for help in the first place.
As long as it doesn’t make the problem worse, this means having the same kind of conversations you’ve always had and doing the same things together you’ve always done. You’re their friend, first and foremost, and simply being there for them is the most helpful thing you can do.