The Most Important Way to Support a Friend Who’s Struggling

It’s important to reach out, but the way we communicate is key.

Shutterstock/ Eakachai Leesin
Shutterstock/ Eakachai Leesin

The uncertainty of the pandemic continues to affect all of our lives, though its effects have hit some harder than others. Most of us genuinely want to help friends and family who are having a tough time — but knowing the best way to show up for others can be challenging. Even though we may struggle to find the right words, research confirms that reaching out and extending support is critical.

When you check in, try referencing a happy memory the two of you share, and allow that positive anecdote to be a conversation starter, Ursula Whiteside, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Thrive. Then, consider reflecting their strengths back at them: “It’s a form of giving hope. You might say something like, ‘I was just thinking of you. I know you’ve been through so much lately, but I’ve seen how strong you are, and I know you’ll get through it,’” Whiteside suggests.

You’ll also want to be specific about when and in what capacity you’re available to help them should they need you. Blanket statements like “Let me know if you need anything” can be vague and confusing to the person who’s struggling, no matter how well-intentioned your offer is.

To better support the friends and family in your life, keep these Microsteps in mind:

Show someone concern without offering advice. Instead of “How can I solve their problem,” ask, “How can I be there for them in this moment?”

Today, make a list of someone to call, text, or FaceTime each day. Writing out a list of your loved ones and allocating a few minutes each day to call them will help you — and them — feel more connected. 

Ask someone what they’re doing to take care of themselves. Spending physical time apart over the last two years has made many of us feel further apart emotionally. This question can bring us closer.

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