Listen and be open-minded
Friends often know the most about whatever’s going on in our lives – from the hilarious/mortifying/scandalous events of the night before to the more serious stuff, like what’s getting us down. If one of your friends is going through a tough time, you can help just by being there to listen.
Tips for how to listen
Let them talk
Giving your friend the chance to talk can help them get stuff off their chest and manage how they’re feeling. Sometimes if you’ve had a similar experience, it can be tempting to tell them your own story.
This mightn’t be the right time to do that. It might be better just to let them talk and tell them about your own experiences later on.
Try and be as supportive as possible towards your friend. Keep a really open-mind and help them figure out the best solution to their problem.
Avoid giving advice
Advice is a tricky thing. If you’ve been through something similar, it can be helpful to let them know what worked for you, but everyone’s different. They might need to find a different way of dealing with what’s happening. Let them know your opinion is just an opinion, and they shouldn’t feel they have to agree.
Use open-ended questions
Open-ended question, like the name suggests, let people open up a bit more. They often start with “how” or “what”. For example “How do you feel about …?” can open people up more than “Do you feel like…?” What you’re then doing is letting them get whatever’s bothering them out in the open and figure it out. Another good way to approach this is to ask “Can you tell me about…?”
Let them know you’re listening
Show you’re listening – it lets them know you care.There’s a few ways of doing this: ask questions to get a better understanding of what they’ve been talking about say what you think, feel or sense about what they’ve said repeat back in your own words what they’ve been saying.
Open body language can make someone feel more comfortable speaking to you what’s worrying them. Try and keep eye contact with the person you’re speaking with. Try not to look over their shoulder.
Sit with your arms by your side or in your lap rather than crossed and stretch out rather than being squished up in a chair. Think about the cultural background that your friend comes from – this can change what’s considered to be warm and friendly body language. Check out safe body language to find out more about this.
Reassure your friend that their feelings are ok and that there’ll be a way through whatever’s going on.
Your friend might find it helpful to talk with someone like a counsellor, psychologist or GP has more information about how these people can help. You can also help them find someone to to talk to. Look in your local phone book for details of these people in your local area. You could offer to go to with them when they go to see someone if that’s appropriate. Just let them they don’t have to go alone.
Remember to look after yourself as well while you’re supporting someone else.