People love to feel loved. It’s part of human nature. And knowing how to be there for someone as a loving, caring presence is an excellent way to improve all your social relationships.
Let’s go over a few tips about how to “be there” in the best way possible, and then let’s look at an example.
"Being There" Tips
Understand That Just Being There For Someone is Enough
Lots of people, especially men, seem to have the idea that they need to give good advice or help fix the situation when a friend comes to them for support. The truth is, though, that just being there is enough most of the time.
The main reason someone might go to a friend when they are sad is that they want a non-judgmental environment to vent and air grievances. They do not expect a friend to solve all of their problems.
Remember that you can’t fix everything even if you try.
When you’re there for a friend, listen to them carefully. At least for the first part of the interaction, you should be doing very little talking, with the exception of the occasional “I agree” and “you’re absolutely right.” Don’t say these things if you don’t actually agree or if the person is not actually right, but save any contradictory opinions for later.
Try to Empathize
Sympathy is when you feel sorry for someone, but only in a disconnected way. Empathy is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel their pain by surrounding yourself with their emotions.
Empathy is the goal when you’re being there for someone. If you can achieve empathy with them, they will not feel alone in their sorrow, and that will help them more than words ever could.
Act welcoming. A person in need wants to find a safe, warm atmosphere that serves as a respite from the doom and gloom inside their head. Try to be that respite.
Don't Talk Down
When a broken person comes to you for help, it’s easy to see them as lower than you. People often (usually unintentionally) take this as a chance to preach down to the friend, acting like the expert imparting wisdom to a pupil.
This is definitely not the way to make your friend feel better. You need to show them you’re still on the same level, and they still have your respect even if they feel disappointed.
Dispel Tunnel Vision
Sad people have a habit of focusing on their problems with an incredibly narrow and negative view, ignoring extraneous factors that might help explain or at least lessen the impact of the incident. It’s part of your jab to look at the situation as a relatively impartial observer and help them detect those tangential details.
Reinforce Unconditional Friendship
“I’ll be there for you, no matter what.” You should utter a variation on this phrase at least once in your conversation with your friend. Never let them forget that, no matter what happens or what actions they take, they’ll keep you as a friend once they come out of this.
Tell a Story
At the tail end of your conversation, it’s a good idea to include a story of a time from your own past when you were in a situation similar to the one at hand. Include parts about what you did about the issue, why you chose that particular solution, and what the repercussions were.
As we mentioned above, let your friend do most of the talking for the first half of the conversation. Your story should come later, and even then, it should not be so long that it steals the spotlight from your friend.
Being There for Someone: A Quick Example
A few weeks ago, my female friend approached me. She was upset because she had just broken up with her boyfriend. I smiled sympathetically, assumed an open pose to make her feel more comfortable sharing, and told her to tell me what had happened.
I listened carefully for the next few minutes, nodding and “mm-hmm’ing” every now and then. When she revealed he had cheated on her, it was difficult for me to hold back the words on the tip of my tongue: “but then why are YOU the one who’s saying you miss him? You’re better off without that creep!” I did, though, knowing that just then was the time for listening, not voicing my own opinions.
When she had finished her story after another ten minutes, I gently asked her opinion on her situation, trying to feel things from her perspective while still maintaining a logical outlook. I found myself questioning things like, “how do you think that happened?” and “what are you going to do about that at this point?” When she answered, I always made sure to let her know I supported her decision, even though I sometimes voiced disagreement too.
I’ve never been cheated on so I couldn’t share a story about it, but my grandmother did die last year, and I told her that story to illustrate how people often don’t think straight in times of deep sadness or stress and can, therefore, benefit from talking to a friend.
Now, a few weeks later, my friend is doing fine. She’s expressed gratitude to me for being there for her, and I expect her to deal with her next similarly painful incident with a more positive, logical attitude.
My experience with my friend went quite well, and I hope this list of tips will help you achieve a similar result next time you need to be there for someone.
IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS ON EFFECTIVE WAYS TO BE THERE FOR A FRIEND IN NEED, LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!