3 Simple Actions to Be a Supportive Friend in Any Situation

3 Simple Actions to Be a Supportive Friend in Any Situation

In a podcast episode of the Portland, Maine Slant series, a woman discusses her experience with having an abortion back when it was still an illegal practice in the United States.

In her story, when the woman tells her father that she had accidentally gotten pregnant, he did not judge her. He did not question her. He simply asked her one simple question: “How can I help you?”

I thought this was such a beautiful and concise answer to what can feel like such a complicated question: How do we help someone who is having a difficult time and needs support? Here are three simple acts that go a long way.

I want to point out, too, that all of these apply to self-care when you yourself are dealing with a difficult time!


1. Ask, “How Can I Help You?”

When someone isn’t feeling good, it’s tempting to go right into problem-solving mode. We don’t like to see the people we love hurting, and sometimes other’s pain can bring to the surface some of the pain that we are experiencing too. For some, this tactic really works! And that is so great. For others, though, it can be an abrasive reaction, and can feel silencing in some ways.

Ultimately, we all have different ways that we want and prefer to be supported—some like to have someone point out the silver linings to a difficult situation we are going through; others like to verbalize their experience, to be listened to and feel heard. Some like to brainstorm together how to make the situation better. Others like to be validated in their experience, and/or hear feedback about different perspectives and ways to understand the situation. Ultimately, the only way to truly know what someone needs is to ask them. (Knowing how you like to be supported is an important element of knowing yourself!)


2. Give Them Your Full, Uninterrupted Self

It feels so good when someone is truly present to what you are going through—whether it’s in person, on the phone, or via text message, mindfully listening and responding is so important. It’s important to check in with yourself, too, and know that you won’t always be able to support someone, for all different kinds of reasons.

If this moment comes up for you, do your best to communicate that to them (lovingly!). If you can, offer a different time—“I have to do some work on this paper, but can I call you in a couple of hours?” If this issue is more that you can’t be a pillar of support for them, just be honest, even though it is really hard. Give them the opportunity to find someone who will be available for them.


3. Give Them Tools to Help Themselves

It’s amazing to be there for someone else. But it’s also important to remind them that they are capable, that they are strong, that you believe in them. There are so many resources for self-help. Don’t be afraid to lean on these resources—giving someone access to those tools is a truly beautiful action of kindness and care. There are amazing self-care books, meditations, videos, therapy resources, and more that you can find and share (with yourself and with others!).


We are all going to go through difficult times in our lives, and knowing how we can take care of ourselves and others is a wonderful tool to have when those times do arise.


Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.