Being there for loved ones when they are going through hard times can be a tough job. Sometimes it can feel like there is nothing you can do or that you aren't qualified or strong enough to help. Knowing whether a loved one needs advice, a sympathetic ear, or even a little tough love can be difficult, especially when taking the wrong approach may push them away or make them feel worse about the situation. It takes patience, understanding, and empathy to really be able to help someone who is struggling with difficult issues in their life.
In this article we will explain how to be there for someone and give them the love and support they need whenever things are hard.
Be an Active Part of Your Loved One’s Lives
Staying aware of what is going on in your loved one's lives is a very important part of being a supportive friend or family member. It can be easy to get caught up in your own life and think that you have no time or energy left to give, but it's vital to take the time to check in regularly with the important people in your life.
By staying engaged with your loved ones, if ever there is a time when they need someone to talk to or a supportive shoulder to lean on, they will know that you care enough to make time for them. It can sometimes be tiring to always be the person everyone turns to when they need advice or a hug, but it is a huge privilege to know that you are so trusted and valued. Be understanding and supportive, and remember that there may come a time in your life when you need someone to confide in or to pick you up.
Always Be a Positive Force
When you are spending time with your loved ones, particularly if you know they are going through a hard time, try not to focus too much on the negatives. If you know somebody is feeling down, then try to plan something fun that will help to take their mind off it for a little while. You can use it as an opportunity to have a chat with your loved one but also to just have some fun and unwind. Some people are more willing to open up and talk about their problems when they are feeling relaxed, so this can be a better way to approach an issue than an intense conversation.
If you have a close group of friends or a tight-knit family, try to make every activity you do together an opportunity to talk and share problems and solutions. Remember this isn't just about being there for your loved ones, it's about building strong relationships where everyone involved looks out for each other and helps one another through difficult times.
Listen More Than You Speak
It is normal to want to share your own experiences to help someone who is having a hard time, but all some people really need is somebody to listen to their problems. It may be that just telling you what is on their mind and hearing it back to themselves provides the answers they need. If you don't know how much advice about a situation to give, ask questions like, "What do you think about...?" or “How would you feel if…?” rather than just stating your own opinions, because this can help them to open up. This is important not only in times when people need help, but also in times when they just need to let off some steam. A good old-fashioned moan to a trusted friend or family member is often all that is required to ease the pressure of a difficult situation.
Remember that while not everyone who is going through a rough patch will want advice or input, that doesn't mean they don’t want to talk. Listen carefully, stay present, and when the time is right, ask them if there is anything you can do. By listening first, you will be able to get a better idea of exactly what they are going through which will help you to decide what your loved one needs from you.
Be an Empathetic Confidant
One of the best things you can do when a loved one is confiding in you is to put yourself in their shoes. You need to understand where they are coming from and what it feels like, not just say “oh that’s terrible”, or just give them advice without empathizing with their situation. If the person is a close friend or family member, then you have probably had similar conversations with them during difficult times in your own life, so think back to what you needed from your loved one in those moments. Tell them, “I understand how you feel”, and if they ask you or you feel it will help, share similar experiences that you have been through in the past.
Offer Cautious Humble Advice
When it comes to giving advice, you should always be cautious about what you say. While you may think that your loved one needs to hear some home truths or that a little tough love will help, they may not yet be ready to hear it. Being there for someone is often not about trying to advise them on how to solve the problems in their life, but rather giving them the confidence and reassurance they need to come to their own solutions. When you are discussing problems with your loved ones, listen carefully without offering automatic suggestions about what you would do in their shoes, or boasting about why you would never find yourself in that position. Nobody wants to have it confirmed to them that they have made a mistake or done something silly and so always stay humble, kind, and available.
Don't Be Judgemental
Being there for someone means not being judgemental. Many people feel like they can't turn to others when they are struggling because of the fear that their problems will be downplayed or dismissed as unimportant. The last thing you want is for your loved one to think this about you, so it's important to put all preconceived notions and judgements aside before trying to console a person in their time of need.
Be open-minded, and rather than being eager to pass judgement, let the person know that you only have their best interests at heart. One thing that you should never say is “I told you so”, even if you warned a loved one about this exact thing in the past. While knowing you were right can feel like vindication, especially if there was some kind of heated argument in the past about this exact outcome, your priority should always be to help your loved one get through this difficult moment in their life. This is especially true when it comes to love and relationships. Heartbreak can be overwhelmingly painful so the last thing anybody wants to hear is that they caused it themselves by not heeding your warnings.
No matter how much of a predicament someone seems to have got themselves into, whether it is a romantic, financial or emotional mess, do not judge them for making bad decisions. After all, we all make mistakes at some point during our lives. Making someone feel worse about their mistakes is not productive and will just prevent them from confiding in you the next time they have a problem.
Try Not to Take Sides
There are many occasions in life when we find ourselves in the middle of an issue between two people we know. This may be a couple breaking up, both of whom are your friends, or perhaps an argument between two family members, both of whom you love very much. The last thing you want is to get dragged into the middle of a volatile situation. The best approach in this situation is to try and remain as impartial as you can. This means that if one person says something negative about the other, then do not immediately believe or disbelieve what they say. There may be truth in their words or they may just be bitter and looking to harm the other person. For example, if your friends have just broken up, there is likely to be a lot of pain, guilt, and blame being thrown around. As a friend, listen to what both have to say without passing judgement, or in any way inflaming passions which are already running high.
Never Betray Someone's Confidence
If you have been close to someone for a long time, the chances are that the person will have shared some of their most personal thoughts and feelings with you. This trust is something that very few people ever receive and it is something that you should feel deeply honoured by. If your friend or family members trusts you enough to confide in you about something private or important, then it's crucial that you never betray them by sharing the information with anyone else. You may think that deep down they really do want other people to know, or that sharing the information will be beneficial to the person, but that isn’t your decision to make. If somebody tells you something in confidence, treat it as sacred, and never even hint about it to other people. Even if the secret eventually comes out or the person goes on to tell more people, there is no need for you to reveal that you were already privy to the information. Finding out that somebody broke a promise and revealed a secret can be incredibly hurtful and it can be next to impossible to ever build a trusting relationship after that.
Don't Jump to Conclusions
It is impossible to truly know what is going on in somebody’s life unless you are with them 24/7. Even then, it can be very difficult to fully comprehend another person’s thoughts or feelings, or to know if they are hiding something behind their smiles. There are many people who manage to hide their problems from the people around them, even their loved ones who know them better than anyone.
It is crucial that you never assume somebody is doing okay just because they tell you that there is no problem. For example, if a friend has just lost their job or had a bad break up, even though they may say they are fine, you should still send them a message to check up on them. It doesn’t have to be a heavy message, just something light and friendly to remind them that you are here for them if they need you. Likewise, if your loved one has become withdrawn and doesn’t want to meet up, try popping round for a chat when you’re “in the neighborhood”. You will then be able to gauge a better understanding of what is really going on and how your loved one is feeling so that you can provide the love and support they need.
Being there for someone is not just a matter of being physically present but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually available at all times. Always be aware and interested in the lives of your loved ones, no matter how busy you might be, because it will help you to notice if there is something that is troubling them. It is vital that when somebody comes to you for advice or reassurance that you are open-minded, non-judgemental and always ready to listen when they need you. It is a privilege to have people trust you so much that you are their go-to in times of need, and you should look at it as a great compliment to your character. If you are worried about how to be there for someone, be a listener first, and let them know through your words and actions that you are not there to judge them or criticize, only to support and love.