Put These On Your 'Don't Do' List
It is easy to be friends with someone when everything is going great. It is another story during times of stress. The last thing you want to do is make matters worse even when your intentions are good. Fortunately, there are ways for everyone to be a better friend, and these are just a few ways to help your friends when they are feeling down in the dumps.
Avoiding the Subject
Many people do not know where to begin in broaching a negative subject. The easiest thing to do is pick a quiet place where you are not surrounded by strangers. You can approach the topic by simply asking, "Are you feeling all right?" The important thing to remember during this conversation is to listen more than you talk. Sit in a position where you are face-to-face with the other person, so he or she can see your reactions. Finally, you can end the conversation by stating, "Thanks for telling me that." It is fine if you do not have any solutions. Your friend does not expect you to fix anything. You just need to be there to care.
Being Too Positive
Another mistake is to always look on the bright side. When your friend is upset about a lost job opportunity, the last thing he or she wants to hear is "You are great. Everything will work out." Many people perceive such statements as you trying to say that it is unacceptable to feel sad. You can, of course, try to cheer up your friends if they say things like how worthless or pathetic they are. However, if a friend is sad, then make it clear that sadness is normal.
Talking About Your Own Hardships
In an effort to empathize, many people try to relay stories of their own struggles. The problem with this is you risk coming across as though you are trying to one-up the other person. It is all right to state how you went through something similar, but make sure to always bring the conversation back around to your friend. For example, you can talk about your last breakup for a bit, but then you want to ask a question to your friend. This makes it much more obvious you want to validate the bad experience.
When people bring up their problems to you, they are typically not looking for solutions. They just want to be heard. Therefore, it can come across as insulting if you suggest a way to make someone feel better. For example, you do not want to say how going for a job makes you feel better because that may not work for everyone. You also do not want to promote destructive behavior. Many people make the disastrous mistake of taking a sad friend to a bar to drink away worries. The last thing you want to do is encourage alcohol use because it could lead to someone serious consequences.
Suggesting They Read Self-Help Books
In many circumstances, bringing up self-help material might come across as insulting. Your friends may think you are uninterested in helping them, and that you don't want to listen but would rather offer a quick-fix. While reading self-help books could be beneficial, right now they need someone to listen and care.
Everyone has their ups and downs, so all you need to do is be there as a friend. Do not have any additional advice for cheering up friends? Share your wisdom in the comments.