Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Can I Comfort a Troubled Friend?

I had been going through some stressful times.  A friend of mine said via email, "Let me know if you want to talk.  I'm here to listen."  That phrase rubbed me the wrong way.  I didn't mention it because I know my friend only meant goodness and was troubled for me and wanted to show support.

As you know from my previous blog on complaining, venting, and whining, I do not find those behaviours useful.  The comment, "I'm here to listen" -- which I repeat, was said with a big, open heart -- must have made me feel like a whiner.

I mentioned this today to my houseguest.  She told me of a time when her offer of support to a friend was taken as an offense.  "Should I have just said, 'How can I support you?'"

Maybe - maybe not.  "How can I support you?" is probably a better response than giving advice or clichéd responses like "This too shall pass" or worse, "I know how you feel."  The problem with advice and "I know how you feel" is that, without realizing it, you are  barraging the friend with your reality.  They need you to put yourself aside for a moment and somehow "be" with them.  It's a tough thing to do and takes practice.  Here's a super-handy cheat sheet of sentence starters that will help you focus on the other person.

Troubled people are troubled.  Sometimes it doesn't matter what we say, but usually an expression recognizing their difficulty without trying to fix it will keep you connected to the other person.

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