RD&T’s contributing writer, Kathryn Sandford, shares three powerful strategies to help your friends when they are in crisis.
Life throws us curveballs without any warning. Some curveballs come from nowhere and some send us signals that they are coming, but we choose, for whatever reason, to ignore the signs.
Nobody is immune to life’s curveballs. We live in a world where, as a result of technology, we are exposed to natural disasters, terrorism, disruption, change and adversity on a daily basis.
The good news is that despite all the disruption, change and adversity that we face in our lives, we are hardwired to be resilient. The ability of how well we as an individual successfully deal with crises and adversity is significantly influenced by our social surroundings.
Friendship and the Journey to Recovery
Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. — Euripides
Euripides’ quote highlights the true purpose of friendship. Supporting and helping our friends to successfully manage their journey through a life crisis enables them to face adversity from a position of strength.
Friendship is the key ingredient to enabling a friend in crises to be able to understand how to face adversity in a way where they can learn, grow and thrive.
If we are a true friend, then our role is to support our friends and not let them crash and burn to a point where they have lost hope and faith in themselves.
So what can you do to help your friends successfully manage adversity or crises in their lives?
These three strategies, I believe, are the key ingredients to you being able to effectively influence and support your friends through those curve balls that life will throw at them:
1. Be prepared to commit to your friendship.
If you truly want to help and support your friend through a crisis, commit to being there for the long haul – no matter what.
A true friend does not wait for the phone call or the plea for help – they reach out immediately.
This can be a hard thing to do, especially when a friend is suffering and in pain. It can be scary and confronting as it means that not only do we feel their pain, but we also are forced to face our own emotions and fears that can rise to the surface.
One of the key actions you can do to support your friends is to let them know that you love them, you are there for them and that they are not alone.
2. Commit to taking action.
Before you take action, take a long hard look at yourself and decide what the reality is around you taking action. Do not overcommit and promise to do things that you cannot deliver on.
I was very impressed with how my work colleague coped with managing this crisis.
She assessed the reality of how she could realistically provide ongoing support to her friend. She went and visited her friend in hospital told her that she loved her dearly, she was there for the long haul and she explained what she was going to do to support her friend.
She had found an app that helped her organize meals to be delivered to the family, five nights a week. She managed to get 80 people to sign up, and the app organised emails and scheduling.
When her friend got home from hospital, she blocked out every Wednesday night after work to visit her friend for a wine and a chat.
She also told her friend that she would be her hair, makeup, pedicures go-to person. She organized the hairdresser, makeup and pedicure ladies to come to the house on a regular basis. The appointments were scheduled every six weeks.
The accident happened over 18 months ago and my work colleague is still going strong supporting her friend to manage the ongoing challenges she faces in her life.
3. Listen, listen and listen. Hold back from giving advice until it is asked for.
This strategy leads from Strategy Two. Once you have committed to taking action, then it is time for you to be present with your friend.
What I mean by this is, that as a true friend, you do not have the solution or the power to solve the problem or make the pain go away.
Physically being there with your friend is being present and it may mean you turning up and holding your friend’s hand. It may be that you sit with your friend listening and supporting them through whatever she/he is feeling while you are with them.
Listen and let them know you hear their pain – not feel it, but actually hear it. Acknowledge their pain because when you connect with someone’s pain, it makes them feel they are being supported.
A good statement to say to your friend at this stage could be;
What I’m hearing is that you are feeling ____. Is that right?
Sharing your feelings with your friend demonstrates empathy and deepens your connection with them. Here are some examples of what you could say:
My heart hurts for you…
I wish I could make it better for you…
I just don’t know what to say…
When a friend opens up to you to share their pain, they are in a very vulnerable place. It shows that they trust you and it is important that you acknowledge this.
By expressing gratitude and thanking them for sharing with you, you demonstrate that you are a safe harbour for them.
The next step is to encourage by reaffirming the positive elements that you see in your friend.
Be careful not to say things like ” it will get better” or “this is what I would do”. Once you start making statements like this, you are disconnecting from your friend and you are not being supportive in any way.
To be encouraging and positive, focus on sharing the qualities that you admire about your friend. Help your friend to see that they are amazing and worthy of love.
Simple statements are the most powerful such as:
I love you.
You are a warrior.
I am proud of you.
You matter so much to me.
You are brave/courageous.
Understanding the power of words is hugely important when it comes to supporting a friend through a crisis. When you are truly committed to a friendship, then the words you use will demonstrate empathy, connection and love.
Being a true friend is not that complicated, in fact it is very simple. All we have to do is follow the three strategies:
- Commit to the friendship.
- Demonstrate your commitment by taking action and be present with your friend in crises.
- Listen and support.
Knowing who you are as a true friend is key to your supporting friends through any crises they may face. Follow the three strategies and your true value as a friend will provide you with friendships that will last for life – a rare and priceless gift.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.— Lucius Annaeus Seneca