Helping a Friend in Need (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

It's natural to want to help a friend who is going through a difficult time, but it's not always easy to know how. Consider times when you were in need and what your friends did to help you. What was the most useful to you? Some friends may have kept their distance, which may have hurt you, but it could be because they didn't know what to say or do, or they simply assumed you'd ask if you needed anything. It can be difficult to be on either side, whether you are the one in need of assistance or the one providing it.

Here are eight ways you can truly assist a friend in need:

Video Guide

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1. Be Specific in Your Offers of Assistance

Vague remarks such as “Let me know if there's anything I can do” are unlikely to be taken up. Most people find it difficult to ask for help, so telling them to let you know if they need anything puts the burden back on them. When people are going through a difficult time, even mundane tasks can become overwhelming. So, in addition to offering them a shoulder to cry on, consider what practical assistance you can provide and make specific suggestions. For example, “I'm going to the supermarket now; would you like to give me your shopping list and I'll pick up some items for you while I'm there?” Such specific offers are more likely to be accepted.

2. Do Not Forcibly Assist Them

Offer your assistance, but if they decline, accept it. You might make them feel worse if you keep insisting. It's possible that they've never really needed help before, or that they've been raised to believe that they should be able to handle anything. Or perhaps they genuinely do not want or require your assistance. That doesn't mean you shouldn't offer to help again; it's just a matter of being sensitive and respecting what they say about their current needs.

3. Only offer assistance that you are truly capable of providing

Consider carefully what assistance you can provide. It's natural to want to make everything right for your upset friend in a hurry, but think about the realities of what you're offering before you open your mouth. Following through on what you've offered, or doing something grudgingly, is worse than not offering at all; your friend will be disappointed, and you will be miserable.

4. Don't Think You Know What's Best For Them

Regardless of how much they are struggling, your suffering friend is still an adult who must make their own decisions. When people are going through a difficult time, they may believe that they have little control over what is happening to them. If you try to take over everything, you contribute to their loss of control. What was best for you when you were going through a difficult time isn't always the best thing for them. Be guided by them; if they want you to take charge or make decisions for them, that's fine, but it's their choice, not yours. The only exception is if you are concerned that they will harm themselves or others, in which case you will almost certainly need to seek appropriate help for them, even if they do not want it.

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5. Keep in mind that small thoughtful gestures can go a long way

You may be limited in what you can do to help because of your own commitments, or for financial or geographical reasons, but small gestures have a big impact. A card in the mail to let them know you're thinking of them, or a voicemail message to remind them you're at the end of the phone if they want to talk, can mean a lot. Perhaps you could do some research on organizations or support groups that might be able to assist your friend and email the information to her. Whatever your situation, there will be small thoughtful things you can do to help that will likely be more valuable than you realize.

6. Be someone they can rely on

Unless they have given you permission, do not share details about their situation with other friends. Your intentions may be good in discussing it with others, but your friend may have been telling you things in confidence and will feel betrayed if you break their trust. They don't need the added burden of feeling hurt and betrayed by you on top of everything else they're dealing with.

7. Listen more than you speak

If you are more of a talker than a listener, now is the time to rein it in. Unless they specifically request it, avoid giving your opinion on their situation on a regular basis. Follow their lead; they may want to vent to a sympathetic ear, or they may want you to make suggestions. It's best if you can keep your emotions under control; you may be upset or angry about what your friend is going through, but you'll be able to help them more if you can remain calm while listening. This will give them the impression that you are dependable and a rock for them.

8. Assist Them in Seeing a Brighter Future

Depending on their situation, your friend may find it difficult to imagine a time when they will not feel as they do now. Help them to see beyond that by giving them something to look forward to, such as an evening out. When you believe they are ready, begin talking positively with them about future plans. Again, follow your friend's lead here; if they seem open to what you're saying, go with it; if they shut down, back off and try again another time. The most important thing is for them to know that you are there for them both now and in the future.

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