How to Truly Support Someone
For most of us people are an important part of our life. We care about people and we aim to be a positive influence in their lives. Many of us derive a sense of meaning from being with others. All too often we are faced with difficult situations and many times we try to support others, who are having a tough time.
Most of us want to be the best friend or support for others we can be. We also need to be a safe person to be with for others to open us to us. Our vulnerabilities can only be shared in a safe environment of trust and respect. Read the following to check how to be a safe person to support someone you care about:
Listen and respond without judgement. If someone shares something painful, critical or embarrassing for them, the very last thing they need is added judgement and shame. Be there for the person, who is distressed by an act or a situation. There’s nothing for you to do about that itself. Just be there for them and say something like, ‘I understand that that must be very difficult for you right now. I am here to listen. I am here for you because I care.’ Create the loving space they need to express themselves with honesty and vulnerability.
Show empathy, not sympathy. No one likes to feel spoken down to. No one needs a condescending friend. Instead of feeling sorry for someone, try to understand how it must feel for them and relate to that feeling. Say something like, ‘I really feel for you. I’ve been there myself.’ And continue to listen.
Be an equal. The last thing someone in distress or pain needs is someone worthy, who will feel disappointed by them. It is very difficult to be there for someone when it affects you too or when it triggers unpleasant feelings like disappointment in you. What’s helpful to remember is that no problems get sorted during emotional storms. Acknowledge your feelings but remain compassionate – with your friend and yourself. This may not be the best time to bring up additional issues.
Be emotionally open and honest. You need to be comfortable with your own emotions to avoid scolding or shaming others for theirs. To be a great support to others, you must be able to be there for yourself and your emotions first. Become more emotionally literate by identifying how you feel a few times per day. Notice how your thinking impacts on your feeling state.
Accept your friend’s reality. We all need to be heard. Sometimes we cannot or do not want to be rational but still need to tell our story. Don’t exaggerate or downplay. Accept that we all have separate realities and that there is no need to be right.
Calm the mind to see your next steps clearly. We are all able to make informed decisions in our moments of clarity. There is never a need to lecture and force your advice onto anyone else as this is usually received condescending and disrespectful.
Now you have a clearer picture on how to support someone compassionately, turn it towards yourself and start practising on yourself – every day.