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How to Support a Friend Through Difficulty

by Victor Fatorisa

To support a friend is no easy task in the modern-day. Most things have turned abstract, and only a few still care to be present emotionally or physically. It’s hard to tell if emotions grew wild or actually died because most people developed an “I don’t care” attitude.  If you’re on Twitter and have Nigerians on your feed, you’d understand better.

A supportive friend is even sometimes seen as a “scam,” so much so that the person offered support develops some unhealthy form of insecurity. Trust has become a commodity too expensive to give to those considered friends. It’s just a general belief now that everyone has an angle. Meaning there’s nobody left with pure intentions. We all can do better. We all should do better. In the end, we’ll all come to realize that connections matter in the form of true friendships and family.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” — Muhammad Ali.

Being a supportive friend through hard times is no easy task. It takes love, courage, great empathy, and a lot of compassion. Here are ten tips on how to support a friend through difficult times. 

10 Simple Tips to Support a Friend Through Difficult times

  1. Be there and Listen

You can’t claim to be a supportive friend if you’re only there for the laughs and good times and quit on your friends when the hardships come. Sometimes, to support a friend is as simple as being there and available. 

Sometimes, it means sitting across the room in full presence with a keen interest and an empathetic aura. Even when they insist on being alone, at least make the offer. Tell them you’re available and show genuine interest in being there for them. Just knowing someone is willing to listen, offer advice, or care can make a huge difference to a friend in a difficult situation. 

Call, send a text, or just ask, “How are you? Is there anything you need or that I can do?”. But, select the right moments and ensure you don’t make them even more uncomfortable.

  1. Make it about them, not you

It is never a competition for the biggest or most complicated problems. You could share how you had similar issues, and the steps you took or things you did that got you through it. If a friend is sad about losing a tooth, you don’t boast about losing your mouth. The goal is to support a friend and not engage in comparisons.

  1. Don’t judge them or their problems

“I told you so” and “I warned you” are phrases you shouldn’t say to someone who’s already hurting. To support a friend requires gentleness and sheer compassion. You can’t help anyone by pointing them out as stupid or stubborn. You have to use soothing words. Validate their feelings by telling them that what they feel is totally okay. Let them know that it’s okay to be distraught and scared, but you’re there for them, and they can always count on you. 

To effectively support a friend, you’ll need to look past placing faults or generally pushing them down further. You should work first and earnestly on making them feel better. The advice can come later. 

Read also: Signs of maturity in a relationship

  1. Help your friend feel better

Show gestures like running errands, maintaining where they live, buying happy trigger gifts like ice cream or chocolates, or playing their favourite board games. You can sweetly support a friend by doing anything that makes them feel good and lightens their mood.

Alcohol and drugs are not advisable, though. Remember, you’re trying to help ease problems, not create new ones. 

  1. Ask how you can help

Sometimes it really comes down to asking. You could feel you know your friend enough to know what they need, but you might be making matters worse. We often do things the way we think they should be done or, in this case, the way we’d like to experience them. The friend you’re trying to support may want things differently. Just ask! It doesn’t hurt to be careful.

  1. Avoid using clichés

“It is well,” “It is all going to be fine,” “it could be worse.” In short, please avoid using clichés. They sound empty and are not helpful. If you don’t know what to say, say you don’t know what to say or say nothing. 

True friendship is about knowing how to use honesty effectively. To support a friend going through a hard time, you have to evaluate the situation and process it through your personal view. Put yourself in your friend’s place, and feel the emotions they are going through. That should give you some pointers on what not to say.

Read also: How to have meaningful conversations with Nigerians

  1. Offer physical touch

A warm, comforting hug, a gentle rub on the back, a gentle touch of the shoulder, or holding hands. These things can be beneficial. Being a supportive friend entails conveying empathy through words and even actions. 

  1. Maintain positivity at all times

To support a friend through difficult times can sometimes be draining. However, you have to remain the rock in the storm. Be ready to house and nurse their turbulent feelings while maintaining stillness, cool-headedness, and a positive spirit. Be so positive that there’s always hope and light from your angle regardless of the negativity and darkness. 

You have to remain calm even when you are also upset about the hardship. To be a supportive friend, you have to show just the right amount of empathy. Enough to make them feel loved and safe but not too much to make them feel worse like you’re pitying them. 

  1. Report abuse or any life-threatening issues your friend could be facing

In the case of bullying, assault, harassment, suicidal thoughts, or other endangering events, report to the appropriate authorities. The authorities could be their parents, guardians, or leaders in a school or religious place you both attend.

DO NOT KEEP IT A SECRET! They could become angered by it, but remember they’ll be alive and safe. Don’t downplay serious issues by tagging them “jokes,” “phase,” or “situations that would only pass.” 

  1. Know when the problem has hopped out of your reach

Understand when all the tangible help you have to offer is prescribing someone else. Know when it’s beyond your reach, knowledge, understanding, or capabilities. Help them see the light by seeking professional help on their behalf. Also, ensure that they make use of the help. That is, support them at each step of the journey. 

Read also: How to build lasting friendships in Nigeria

Conclusion

Above are a few ways to support a friend going through hard times or possible difficult situations. Be that for someone – a rock in stormy days and solace in times of trouble. Try your best to put a smile on someone’s face every day, at least more so on the faces of those you regard as friends. 

“A friend in need is indeed a friend.” Friends support each other through hard times by pulling themselves up and helping each other through the darkness. To be that for a friend who truly understands what it means to help – a supportive friend – is indeed extraordinary.

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