We’ve all been in that sensitive spot when a friend or loved one confides in us about a touchy subject. We want to give advice and we want to be there for our friends. But more often than not, we do not have the “correct or best” advice, and trying to give advice can often be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes the best help you can give a friend who is going through a rough time is to simply “listen”.
Listening isn’t always as easy as it seems. It is a delicate skill we should all master regardless of who is confiding in us. No one teaches us how to give emotional support, yet we depend on it from those who are the closest to us.
When someone confides in you, the following tips can help you be a good listener:
- Try to empathize with their situation. Express concern without being judgmental. Listen; provide encouragement and support-but not advice or opinion.
- Don’t interrupt, and don’t try to relate their problem to a personal matter. Rather than saying, “That’s just like when I got divorced.” Say something like, “I know divorces can be hard. I have some great resources if you need any help.”
- Don’t be too biased or too judgmental. You are only hearing one side of the story. Bashing your friend’s husband or saying she is silly for worrying can put false ideas into someone’s head when they are trying to figure out the hard stuff. Stay in the middle of the road and offer your help rather than pushing an opinion.
- A little touching goes a long way. A pat on the shoulder, a squeeze of the hand, or even a tender hug can say more than words. It shows that you are there for that person and that you care about their overall well being.
Simply listening to a friend or loved one who is going through a tough time can make a world of difference in that person’s life. While no one may be an expert on emotional support, as long as you are respectful and genuine, your friend will appreciate any effort you send her way.
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