5 Tips on How to Support Someone Who is Struggling
By Shailyn Waites MSW & HEC Counsellor
Growing up in Westernized culture it was often taught that emotions are something that an individual needs to hide to show that they are in fact not “weak.” As we progress in research and continue to try to break the mental health stigma, we now know that strength is shown by being vulnerable, seeking support, and learning how to acknowledge and process your emotions.
As we progress to a generation that is encouraging vulnerability it makes for conversations that we weren’t necessarily taught how to prepare for or navigate making an individual feel quite uncomfortable at times. Today’s blog is focused on how to support someone when they open-up to you about their emotions.
Tip #1: Ask them for clarification of how they feel supported…
- “How would you like to be supported in this moment”
- “How can I help?”
Let that person tell you what they want, everyone feels supported in different ways. Maybe they want to hear suggestions, maybe they want you to just listen, or maybe they want you to distract them, you won’t know unless you ask.
Tip #2: Allow them to come up with their own way of coping instead of jumping to giving advice…
- “Have you felt this way before? What helped then?”
- “Is there anything that typically helps you when you are feeling this way?”
Tip #3: Validate what they are feeling.
- “It makes sense you feel that way.”
- “That sounds so difficult.”
- “I can understand why you feel that way.”
- “It sounds like you are feeling _______” (to let them know you are hearing them)
Tip #4: Be aware of your body language.
- Keep your arms open, not crossed as crossing your arms indicates you are closed off.
- Lean forward and show you are engaged and listening to what they are sharing with you.
- Put away all distractions (e.g., don’t be on your phone).
- Use non-verbal cues to show you are listening (e.g., nodding your head).
- Maintain appropriate eye contact.
- Recognize the tone of your voice (keep it soft, slow, and calming to help regulate the individual).
Tip #5: Tell them you are there for them.
- “I am here.”
- “I am here for you whenever you are ready to talk.”
- “I will always be here for you.”
- “You are not alone; I care about you and want to help.”
If you are feeling lost or uncomfortable in a conversation with another individual, I want you to know that just being present and really listening to what they are sharing is making them feel heard, valued, cared for, and showing them they are not alone in what they are going through. You are making a difference.