You may have a natural inclination to help people who are going through difficult times. However, if you're not careful, you might end up saying or doing something that might hurt the other. With this in mind, it is beneficial to learn effective techniques to use when providing emotional support to others.
Part 1 of 3: listen carefully to each other
Step 1. Go to a private area
It is important to make sure that the person who needs your help is sure that you will keep their problem confidential. An empty room is the best option, if of course it is available. However, an empty corner is sufficient if no room is available. Make sure you speak in a low voice, especially if you are in an area where other people could pass by and hear you.
- Avoid being distracted as much as possible. Try to find a quiet place where you won't be distracted by the TV, radio, or other electronic devices. Also, be sure to avoid giving the impression to others that you are texting or looking in your wallet when they speak.
- An alternative. Instead of sitting in a private place, you could go for a walk and chat. Instead of sitting down, you can take a short walk while chatting. This sometimes makes the person feel more comfortable when exposing their problems.
- You could also have this exchange on the phone, but it's important that you have this conversation at a time when you won't be distracted.
Step 2. Ask questions
You can ask what happened or ask the person how they are feeling. The key here is to give the person the assurance that you are there to listen. It is important that she feels that you are genuinely interested in what she has to say and that you genuinely want to support her.
- Ask open-ended questions to help steer the conversation and make the discussion more exciting. You can get insight into what your listener is thinking by asking the right questions.
- Your questions should start with the words “how” and “why” and should prompt discussion, not short answers.
- Here are some examples of open-ended questions. What happened ? What will you do next? What did you feel
Step 3. Listen to the person's response
Watch her as she talks to you and give her your undivided attention. Having your full attention will make her feel more important.
- Eye contact is important so the person knows you are listening. However, be sure not to make excessive eye contact. Be careful not to end up staring at you.
- Use open body language and other non-verbal cues to show you're listening. Try to nod your head once in a while and smile when you need it. Also, be careful not to fold your arms, as this reflects a defensive attitude and the other person might not like this posture.
Step 4. Rephrase what the person is saying
Showing empathy is the key to helping a person feel supported. To show a little more empathy, it's important that you clearly understand the message the person is trying to get across. She will also feel more supported and better understood.
- Don't repeat the same sentences to her that she robotic said. Repeat in other words what he said to have a more conversational approach. Just make sure that when you rephrase what the person is saying, you are doing it using their words. For example, you can say sentences like: "it looks like you are saying …" or "if I understand …" or other similar sentences. It helps the person know that you are really listening.
- Do not interrupt the person while they are talking. Instead, show her support by giving her the opportunity to express what she thinks and feels without the slightest interruption. Respond only when there is natural silence in the conversation or when it becomes obvious that your listener is waiting for your response.
- Now is not the time to judge or be critical. Listening and showing empathy doesn't mean you necessarily share what the person said. Rather, it shows that you care about her and have what she is going through. Avoid saying things like "I warned you", "there is nothing to make a fuss about", "not worth it", "you're exaggerating" or other criticisms. and mitigating comments. Your role is simply to show support and empathy.
Part 2 of 3: Validate Your Listener's Emotions
Step 1. Guess how the person is feeling
Try to understand how the person is feeling as you speak. Some people try to hide their emotions or even hide their feelings. This often happens when other people have criticized their sensitivity in the past. Still others may be confused about how they are feeling. For example, someone might mistake frustration for anger or joy for excitement. Helping the person to identify what they are feeling is the first step in helping them to validate their emotions.
- Don't tell the person how they are feeling. Instead, make suggestions. You could say, “It looks like you are very disappointed” or “You seem very upset. "
- Observe the person's body language and facial expressions as they speak. Also, her tone might give you an idea of how she is feeling.
- Keep in mind that if you are wrong, she will correct you. Don't dismiss it. Accept that she is the only person who can accurately describe her emotions. Accepting your correction is also a way of validating your emotions.
Step 2. Do everything to understand the person
It involves putting aside your own impressions or prejudices about the situation. Be really present and pay attention to what she is saying. Your goal should not be to solve the problem or find solutions. Instead, try to find a safe place where the person will feel listened to.
- Avoid trying to give advice, unless asked to do so. Trying to do this might make your partner feel like you are criticizing them.
- Don't try to make a speech by talking about the person's feelings. Keep in mind that she has the right to feel this way. Showing emotional support involves accepting that she has the right to feel her emotions, whatever they may be.
Step 3. Reassure the person that their emotions are normal
It is important that the person feels that they can freely express their emotions. Now is not the time to be critical of her or the situation. Your mission is to make her feel supported and understood. Short, simple sentences are best. Here are some sample sentences you could use:
- it does a lot of things at the same time;
- I am sorry that this is happening;
- it seems like it really hurt you;
- I understand;
- that would also make me angry.
Step 4. Observe your own body language
Much of the conversation is done in a gestural fashion. This means that your body language is as important as your verbal language. Make sure your body language shows you are caring and show empathy, not criticism or rejection.
- Nod, smile, and make eye contact as you listen. Research has shown that people who display these kinds of non-verbal behaviors are often rated the most empathetic by observers.
- Smiling is especially useful because the human brain is programmed to recognize smiles. This will make her feel more supported, but it will comfort you both.
Part 3 of 3: support each other
Step 1. Ask the person what they want to do
If the person thinks they need emotional support more, know that nothing is right with their life. This is a great opportunity to help her explore the different steps she can take to restore her emotional balance.
- The person may not have an immediate response and this is normal. Don't put pressure on him. She may need to be listened to and understood first.
- Ask “what if” questions. This kind of question will help the person to think about possible actions that they had not considered before. Making proposals in the form of questions is less risky and the person will not feel like they are being told what to do. This approach allows you to make suggestions to help them, without affecting their decision-making power.
- Keep in mind that you are not fixing the problem for the person. You are simply providing support to help them find a solution.
- For example, if your friend is struggling financially, you could say, “What if you had a discussion with your supervisor about a pay rise? Maybe your niece is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of her job and the house. You can say, "What if you planned a completely relaxing vacation with your family?" Any adequate "what if" question might be helpful.
Step 2. Identify the actions to be taken and describe how to do it
The person might not have all the answers at once, but it is important to help them take small steps to resolve the situation. It is important to determine the next step, even if it is just to convince the person to have another discussion with you the next day. People tend to feel more supported when they have reliable people they can rely on to help them see the big picture.
- Continue to help the person take appropriate actions until the problem is resolved. The situation might slowly improve, but she will appreciate your support.
- When a person is grieving, there might not be anything specific to do. People respond to grief differently and it can last up to a year or more. When supporting a bereaved person, it's important that you listen to the stories they want to share with you and accept their feelings without minimizing their loss.
- Sometimes the action may be to accept help from a healthcare professional.
Step 3. Show your support in a concrete way
Sometimes it might be okay to say things like "I'm here if you ever need me" or "don't worry, you'll be fine", instead of actually trying to do something. However, it is very important that you show your support instead of just saying nice words. After you've spent some time listening to the person, you'll likely have ideas for specific things you can do to help them feel more supported. If you're having a hard time doing it, here are some guidelines to help you out.
- Instead of saying “everything will be fine,” you might want to do something in your power to help improve the situation. For example, you can help a sick friend find a good doctor or treatment options.
- In addition to saying “I appreciate you very much,” you might do something the person will like. It could be just giving her a gift, spending more time with her, or taking her to a special place to help her relax.
- Instead of just saying “I'm here for you,” you could take the person to dinner or help them with tasks they need to complete as part of their action plan.
Step 4. Continue to follow your loved one
Everyone has their schedule and things can get hectic at times, but it's important that you find the time to help your loved one. He probably received a lot of moral support, but that deeper level of support would be more appreciated. Keep in mind that small acts of kindness can go a long way in support.
- Don't minimize the situation the person is going through. It might not mean much to you, but if she is in emotional distress, you should know that the situation is pretty tough on her.
- Avoid giving your opinion unless you are asked to do so directly. There is a time and place to give unsolicited advice, especially in dangerous situations. However, if the situation just requires you to show your emotional support, it is best that you avoid giving your opinion unless asked to do so.
- Know that providing support doesn't mean you are in tune with the person. If you think something is wrong, you don't have to consent to it to show emotional support.
- When thinking about different solutions, using "what if" questions is a great way to suggest more adequate solutions without sounding overbearing.
- Remember that you are not making the decision for the person. Your role is to support her and assist her in making her own decisions.
- Make sure you stay calm. Before you try to help someone, make sure you are emotionally healthy. It won't do anyone any good if you are desperate when trying to help.
- Make sure you do exactly what you signed up to do to help. It is better to volunteer for things that you are sure to do rather than risk disappointing the person by going back over what you said later.
- Focus on the other. Be careful talking about your personal experiences when trying to provide support to others. While sharing your own experiences is often helpful, in other circumstances it can have the opposite effect, especially if the person realizes that you are trying to downplay their situation or their feelings. It is therefore better to focus on your situation.
- Intuition can help you when trying to understand the other person and show empathy. It is good to rely on your intuition when trying to make suggestions or guess how a person is feeling. However, if the person corrects you, accept that. Full acceptance is a great step in emotional support.
- If you have to support people in a crisis, be sure to observe your surroundings to make sure everyone is safe. If medical assistance is needed, make it a priority.
- Research has shown that physical contact is good when trying to provide support. However, it is very important that you limit physical contact, unless you know the person perfectly. Hugging someone might be fine if they are a friend, but for a casual acquaintance, even that simple gesture can cause upset. So be sure to limit physical contact and ask permission before hugging another person.