You’re a good friend because you’re looking for an answer on what to do for a friend going through a hard time; if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here.
What To Do For A Friend Going Through A Hard Time
You wouldn’t be trying to understand how to be a person your friend can rely on.
Supporting a friend during challenging times is an act of compassion that can make a world of difference.
When someone we care about is facing a difficult period in their life, it’s natural to want to offer comfort and support.
But it can be challenging to do as most people are not equipped for that as no one taught them, so it’s understandable if you’ve made mistakes or if you’re unclear of how to approach this the right way.
To help you navigate this, I wrote these 8 tips that you should follow to be spot on.
You’ll be as helpful as you can be, and you’ll ensure that your friend who is going through a hard time has a listening ear and the helping hand they need.
We can start with the first one right away.
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WHAT TO DO FOR A FRIEND GOING THROUGH A HARD TIME
#1 BE THERE FOR THEM
You can offer to be there for them physically at their convenience, or you can be in touch regularly to provide emotional support and kind words of encouragement.
Physical proximity and physical touch go a long way, are soothing, and can heal.
However, depending on your or their life circumstances, this may be challenging to do, and that’s alright.
Because just by checking up on them and having conversations where you’ll give them enough space to express how they feel and what they think about, you’ll be very helpful and thoughtful.
So, as you can see, the most important thing is how you’re showing up for them—if you are empathizing with their emotions and decentering from your position to be able to think from the position they are currently in.
Many people believe that it’s enough to just empathize or be able to anticipate how they feel.
But it’s equally important to be able to decenter from your position and try to understand how they think—their reasoning from the place where they are.
I’ll say more about this later in the post.
We can move to the next thing you can do for a friend going through a hard time now.
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#2 OFFER EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AND UNDERSTANDING WITHOUT OFFERING UNSOLICITED FIXES AND SOLUTIONS
Suggesting solutions and trying to fix things isn’t bad by nature. But the problem is that by doing this, you aren’t holding the space for them where they can express their emotions, which are difficult, painful, and unpleasant.
By not being able to restrain yourself from fixing, you’re showing that you can’t handle the discomfort that difficult emotions bring, and by not letting them express them, you’re sending a message to them that it’s not acceptable or safe if they show how they really feel in front of you.
Now, it’s totally different if they show you or tell you that they would appreciate suggestions and fixes.
Then you can use your brain power or your experience to try to help them work something out.
So, it’s better to test the temperature and feel the pulse of things, and then see what’s best to do.
In any case, it’s essential that you offer your emotional support, as well as that you’ll be open and receptive to them being vulnerable and emotional with you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should let them be exploitative of you; just be open enough that they don’t feel judged and unsupported when they want to show how they really feel and how it actually is for them.
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#3 ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED AND ACKNOWLEDGE IT
It’s easier to ask your friend who is going through a hard time what they need instead of guessing or assuming things.
This is especially important when the situation is complex or delicate.
When this is the case, it’s risky if you assume what they need and act on it.
Especially if you’re not really skilled at offering psychosocial support.
If you are, that’s much better, and you stand a better chance of meeting their needs, but even then, it’s much better if you ask what they need and how you can help best.
For example, I’m equipped to offer psychosocial support, but it’s still a non-negotiable for me, plus I’m obligated to enable participation in that way.
(All people have the right to participate and express their views, which will be taken into account when making decisions about their situation unless it’s been proven that they lack the mental ability to make a decision. Even if they can’t do this, they can still express their views.)
People usually know what they need, and if they don’t, they at least know what they don’t need and don’t want.
So first, make sure that you get the right information from them and acknowledge this.
You can do it by using their own words to confirm whether you’ve understood them correctly, by paraphrasing their words, and asking them to affirm if you got it right.
The most important thing here is that by asking about what they need, you’re:
- acknowledging their position,
- being careful and attentive enough, and
- giving them a chance to have their needs met in the best possible way.
If you assume and guess, there’s also a possibility that you’ll get it wrong in a way that you’ll make the situation worse, so it’s better to be safe and sound in these types of situations.
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#4 BE FLEXIBLE
By this, I mean adapting to fit their schedule more than usual and flexibilizing your demands so that you don’t overburden them with requests that they can’t respond to now that they’re going through a hard time.
Plus, it’s important that you don’t focus on how they’re not doing everything that you’re able to do but to be there for them even if they can give very little at this moment.
Especially if you can see that they’re trying and doing their best.
When someone is having a hard time, their energy level can be different than usual. But they may also desire to spend some time in solitude and be uninterrupted so that they can process their emotions.
So it’s important to be flexible enough to be able to understand that they may have different needs than you would have if you were in a similar position.
We are different, and this is expected, so don’t take things personally.
Just offer your help and tell them that you’re available to be there for them in whatever way they need you. And that you can adapt to meet their needs now that times are tough for them.
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#5 TRY TO THINK FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW
I mentioned this before when I talked about being there for a friend who is having a hard time. And I said that this is essential if you want to show true support.
The thing is, many of our relationship problems come from our inability to think from a different perspective than our own.
The one that we’re currently in because we picture how we would approach things if we were ourselves (in our position or our conditions) but not how we would if we were the other person.
And the trick here is that we often believe we are thoughtful and that we’re understanding enough. But the problem is that we’re often still thinking from our own “safe” position because we’re not affected by this problem.
And it’s hard to imagine how it would be if we hadn’t experienced anything similar before.
For example, if the neighborhood, country, or world is a safe place for one group of people, it is very difficult for them to imagine how it is for those for whom the world is not as safe or is dangerous.
Additionally, we may have a hard time removing ourselves from the picture when we think about the other person if we’re focused on ourselves a lot.
So remove yourself entirely from the picture and really try to think from their position, regardless of how you would think and resonate.
#6 OFFER TO TAKE SOMETHING OFF THEIR PLATE
Depending on the reasons why your friend is having a hard time, it may be more or less convenient and helpful if you were to take something off their plate.
This can be more technical by nature, which is usually the easiest to get done. Or it can be that they need help figuring things out or fixing a problem.
Now, regardless of their nature, it would be best if you were:
- careful not to impose anything on them,
- rather subtle, gentle, and overall helpful,
- focused on responding to what they need and not to what you would need if you were them or what you need now.
You may need to feel useful, and this is understandable.
But you have to understand that their needs come before yours in these types of situations, so avoid trying to give unsolicited advice or service.
Therefore, the best way to approach this is to ask them to think about what they could delegate to you and get back to you if they don’t have an immediate answer.
Even if they’re resisting the offer, you can just say that you understand, that you’re not trying to take the power away from them, and that you know that they are capable of doing it all. But that they don’t have to, and that they can count on you to take something off their plate.
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#7 GIVE THEM SOME SPACE TO WORK THROUGH THINGS
When there are difficult life situations and conditions that people experience even after you’ve offered your help and they’ve received your support, it’s important to understand that things take time to work, if they even get to work.
You need to be prepared for this, because just because someone can’t or won’t do things as you expected them to, that doesn’t mean that it was wrong of you to put in the effort.
What many people fail to comprehend is that you have to leave it to those to whom you have provided your help to decide for themselves and not try to eliminate the risks they are willing to take.
This applies to all—even children, older adults, people with mental illnesses, people with disabilities, and people deprived of legal capacity.
Moreover, it’s even more important that these people aren’t denied their power and left without the opportunity to make decisions based on information.
So, you have to be able to recognize if your criteria or expectations are too high or if you’re not being flexible enough to let them do things their way, even if you have been of great help and done so much for them.
It’s very hard to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes when they’re affected by hard life circumstances.
And very often we believe that we could do things differently and better, but the fact is that we don’t know what it would be like for us because we’re not really there.
We didn’t really experience this.
Plus, it’s very hard to imagine how it would be for us after we have been affected by these problems for a while because, over time, exhaustion sets in.
And that’s a whole other beast, a layer that’s on top of the already hard situation someone has to experience because they have less strength and resources.
So be patient and don’t doubt that your efforts are worth it.
Just keep in mind that hard life events or circumstances take a toll on people, and they can’t always come through the way you wish.
Buying someone a gift is usually well received, especially if we have pure intentions.
And that’s something people can pick up on fairly easily, so don’t worry that they’ll take it the wrong way, because they will know if you’re being genuinely helpful and supportive or not.
Plus, if you choose a good gift, you may be able to relieve some of the pressure or pain for them if they use the gift wisely.
The better you know them, the easier it will be for you to choose the perfect gift, but you can also rely on asking what they need, as we spoke of earlier, and listening.
They may be talking about what they need already, but you have to listen inferentially as well and take hints because not all people are direct communicators.
Additionally, you can ask other people who also know them well, like their family members, to help you pick the best thing for their current position or situation.
I have two other blog posts that you may find useful if you’ve decided to go for the gift this time around.
Here they are:
If your friend has problems related to self-acceptance or or self-love, I have other 3 posts featuring gifts you may find useful as well:
- 21 Gifts To Show You Care To Those You Cherish And Deepen Your Connection
- 16 Positive Gifts For Friends That Will Elevate Their Any Moment
- 11 Uplifting Gifts For Friends To Warm Their Hearts
- 51 Self-love Thoughts To Redefine Your Relationship with Yourself
- 100 Ways To Change Yourself And Empower Your Evolution
- 100 Ways To Improve Yourself (From Ordinary To Extraordinary)
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT TO DO FOR A FRIEND GOING THROUGH A HARD TIME
Being there for a friend during their difficult moments is an invaluable gift we can offer.
By extending empathy, active listening, and practical support, we create a safe space for them to heal and find solace.
Small gestures of kindness, thoughtful acts, and consistent presence can make a significant impact on their well-being.
Remember, the journey of supporting a friend through challenging times is an ongoing process, requiring patience, understanding, and flexibility.
But as we continue to uplift and support one another, we strengthen the bonds of friendship and create a network of love and resilience.
I hope you found these 8 tips on what to do for a friend going through a hard time helpful and I’ll see you in the next post! 👋 Before you go, check out: