Would you like to help a friend whom you appreciate and who is going through a difficult time?
Well, that says a lot about you and your friendship. So I’m going to give you some guidelines so you can better understand how the process of helping another person works. Since sometimes, without wanting to and without noticing it, you could be helping someone when it isn’t up to you, or you could be getting some negative energy, without realizing it.
How can I help a friend
Here are 6 guidelines that I hope will help you help better.
1. Active listening
Active listening means being present in body and mind for the person you want to help.
And don’t think this is easy, because often, you are so eager to help that other person that when they talk, you’re already mentally developing the answer you’ll give them to what they are saying.
Try to listen without thinking about an answer. You’ll answer later. Listen, be present, that way you’ll be able to listen in depth.
2. Don’t get angry, if they don’t follow your advice
From the outside, it’s much easier to notice what’s happening. It’s easier to see what you can do to change a situation or solve a certain problem. But the person who’s inside the problem… DOESN’T see it.
It’s like the popular saying: “It’s easier to see a needle in a haystack, than a beam in front of your eyes”.
Well, that’s what happens.
No matter how much you want to help a friend, you can’t expect her to follow your precise advice, because even if she tries, there may be some personal or internal reasons that prevent her from doing so.
Remember, we can’t change others. Besides:
Also, don’t think that they aren’t listening to your advice. They probably are, when you are talking to them, they may even see it very clearly, they just can’t carry it out.
But don’t worry because even if they aren’t following your advice right now, they will remain somewhere in their mind and maybe, later, when they are strong enough to make a decision, they’ll be there to guide them.
3. Limit the time spent on complaints
I know that when one isn’t doing well, they need to let off steam and say everything that hurts or bothers them.
It’s ok to have a space to do so, and you, as a friend, can give her that space.
But, there comes a time when if the conversation is ONLY focused on complaints and more complaints, instead of being liberating, it starts restressing the person and, probably, you too.
One option is to give them time at the beginning to “complain” or, to let out the pain, to then take the conversation towards:
- “And what have you thought about doing? OR,
- Do you know how to fix it?
The idea is to include advice, strategies or ideas in the conversation, that the person can carry out to better manage the situation.
This is where you can help your friend the most, as they probably don’t know what to do.
So as a friend, show her everything that you see and that she doesn’t.
4. Talk about something else
Normally when one is in a delicate situation or has an overwhelming problem, their mind might spend the entire day dwelling on it. Again and again.
So upon meeting with your friend, try to talk about other things.
Something that has nothing to do with the problematic situation.
Talk about vacations, dreams, illusions, etc. But above all, positive subjects.
It’s useless to stop talking about a personal problem, to start talking about a work problem. In the end, the overwhelming and uncomfortable feeling will be the same.
The reason to talk about other subjects is to generate positive emotions in your friend, so that at least, during that time, she can forget what’s happening.
5. Help her, but don’t take her place
To help a friend, you can be by her side, but if you do what she should be doing for herself, deep down, you’re just preserving the problem.
If for example, she’s having a hard time because she has problems with a common friend, if you talk to that friend, in the short term, yes, you may “solve” the problem, but what about the long term?
When she has another problem, will she know how to solve it by herself or will she need to go looking for you every time?
As Oscar Wilde says,
“Sometimes the best intentions, bring the worst consequences”.
It’s better to give her the resources, explain what she can say or how to talk, or even be right next to her (quietly) when she talks to the person with whom she has a problem. Because if she succeeds, the triumph will be hers.
But if you do it, she’ll continue to feel incapable.
So, be very careful with helping in an unhelpful way.
6. Be patient and set your limits
As I said at the beginning, the fact that you tell her how you see what’s happening to her doesn’t mean that she’ll see it the same way.
It could take months or even years until she can see what you and probably everyone else sees, but which she doesn’t.
So take it easy and set your own limits.
I know how it is to meet someone and only be told problems. Because it’s ok once or twice… but “always” leads to a rather toxic relationship.
Of course, you want to help your friend, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a bad time in the process.
It’s not about “enduring” anything “because she’s your friend”, no, no.
You need to tell her about your conditions.
When it’s okay for her to let off steam and when it’s time to talk about something else.
Because if she doesn’t want to, if she just wants to complain, then you can also decide whether to stay and listen to her complaint, or leave.
Whether to meet with her again or not.
Because the problem is that when a person is so negative, they can drag you into their darkness, without you realizing it.
That’s why you need to set limits, to take care of yourself.
Sure, there are many other things you can do to help a friend. Do you dare to share them? You can do it in the comments section.