You may have found a sad friend, but you didn't know how to comfort him. In fact, trying to comfort someone is risky, as by offering to help you can step on the ball and end up making the situation even worse. After all, how do you support an upset friend and actually make them feel better? The answer is simpler than it sounds: be good company.
Part 1 of 2: Comforting Your Friend
Step 1. Show affection
Most of the time, he just needs a hearty hug, a friendly shoulder, and a pat. Actions are worth more than words and are more likely to have an effect. So just remain silent and give him a little snuggling – there's no need to think too much about the right words to say or the perfect speech. The truth is, your friend may not be feeling well enough to talk, and these gestures will make him feel less helpless.
If he's running away from your attempts to make physical contact, don't insist; maintain respect and continue to be supportive
Step 2. Listen to what he has to say
Make eye contact, nod your head (to show you're paying attention), and make brief comments when necessary. Above all, even if you're dying to talk, let him vent. You can't simply fix emotional damage, so don't push the envelope. Remember, this is not the time to be giving opinions or chattering. It's time to let him expose everything that's going on so that you'll be able to help him better.
- If you notice he's too quiet, ask him if he'd like to talk a bit - say something like, "So, do you want to talk?" All of a sudden, he's just waiting for a show of interest to start sharing his feelings with you. On the other hand, in some cases, the sadness can be so deep that he is not yet ready to speak. In any case, your presence is essential.
- Just make small comments like, “It mustn't be easy” and “It's hard to even imagine your pain,” but don't overdo it. Don't say things like, “I've been through this and I'm alive” – the point is not to talk about you.
Step 3. Help him with the basics
See if there is any homework to do; sometimes sadness creates a physical embargo and the person needs help. Be aware, your friend may be out in the rain, help him find shelter and get warm. If you're downcast and crying continuously, a few wipes and a pain reliever should do the trick. Invite him to sit down for a while. Prepare a chamomile tea to calm him down. If he hasn't slept long enough, take him to bed. As a friend, babysit a bit too.
- There comes a point when the sad person is no longer concerned about his own health and comfort. That's where you step in, trying to facilitate whatever is necessary.
- Don't think your friend will feel better if you open a bottle of wine or buy a crate of beer. Alcohol is never the solution. Imagine the damage a nervous system depressant (alcohol) will do to a person who is already sad.
Step 4. It is better not to say things such as:
“No need to worry” – the person wouldn't be worried if there wasn't a real reason for it. There are a multitude of reasons to feel sad, from something serious – like the health of a family member who is hospitalized – to something not so serious, such as the end of a superficial relationship. Imagine how angry you would be if, at a time like these, someone said, "Get off your face, it's not worth worrying about." If the person is upset for whatever reason, it means that reason is a real problem for them, so don't be insensitive and try to minimize the situation.
- Don't make light of your friend, but don't worry too much about cases that you think are less important – the end of a virtual relationship, for example.
- Don't repeat well-worn phrases that don't contribute anything, for example: “It's not the end of the world”, “You'll get over this one” and “That's not good enough”.
Step 5. Don't play psychiatrist
It is not even necessary to give your opinion when it is not requested. If your friend asks something like, “What do you think I should do?” and begs for your opinion, stop and think hard before giving any advice. Don't forget that if other people's problems were as simple as they seem, they would be solved by now.
- You probably don't know what to do either. That is, if you are not an expert or have had a similar experience, you are just as bewildered as your friend.
- Say simple things like: "Rest" or "Have a little tea to feel better." It's that kind of advice that will bring him a little more comfort. Try not to say things that will put more pressure on you, for example: “You should call Bia right now”.
Step 6. Don't say you understand what he's going through
This is another way to despise your friend even more. Unless you've actually been in a similar situation, don't say you know exactly how he feels, because the only response you'll hear will be a rumbling, "It's not the same thing." Get your ego out of the way, the goal is not to talk about you, it's to help you. Of course, if you're both going through something similar (like a breakup), you can talk about it, but don't compare situations – understand the differences.
- Saying it's hard to imagine how the person feels is better than saying you know exactly how they feel – you're not them.
- It's comforting to know that someone has come out of a bad situation you're going through yourself, however, it's necessary for that person to know how to share their experience in a delicate way. For example, she could start with a motivation: "You're amazing, I'm sure you can handle this situation." Then she would use her own experience as an example: "If I did it, you can do it too."
Step 7. Leave your friend alone if that's what he wants
Not everyone who is sad wants to be affectionate or let off steam. Some people know how to handle feelings better when they're alone, others prefer to be alone right after they've let off steam. Remember how many times you wanted to be alone when you were down? Do not insist; if the person says he needs to be alone, he is probably being sincere.
If you feel your friend is putting his own life at risk, stay with him no matter what he says
Step 8. Ask up front how you can be helpful
Sometimes there is a solution that can be put into practice right away. On the other hand, there may be no solution at all, but there are ways to ease the sadness; how about watching a comedy on TV? Offer alternatives – you don't even have to be a psychic to be a super friend.
- Don't see his silence as some kind of “little game”, he just wants to be alone.
- So he doesn't think he's abusing you, remind him of when you were in his shoes. That's what friends are for, isn't it?
Part 2 of 2: Going a little further
Step 1. Cheer it up a bit
If his case is not too serious, make some innocent jokes, because laughing is the best medicine. If you're able to make fun of the situation without sounding offensive, go ahead, but don't force anything, especially when you notice you haven't been reciprocated.
Of course, playing in extreme situations, such as the loss of a loved one, is not recommended
Step 2. Invite him to play a little fun with games, events and encounters
Keep him as busy as possible. You don't have to drag him to clubs or throw him a surprise party, but you can escort him to a friend's house with a movie and plenty of popcorn; you can also walk a little, play a sport, etc. Keeping him busy will ease the pain, even if he hesitates at first. The fact is, he needs to cheer up and that's his goal.
- It is possible that he will give an excuse, for example: “I don't want to leave, because I will be a hindrance”. However, answer something like this: “Leave it, I love hanging out with you”.
- Get him out of the house, even if it's for a walk around the block. A little fresh air will make you feel better physically and mentally.
Step 3. Help where possible
The sadder he is, the more likely he has neglected the most basic needs. It's time to intervene. Bring him something to eat, see if his clothes need a wash, check to see if the mailbox is full, if they study together, take home assignments for him, etc. They may seem like silly favors, but they contribute a lot to the well-being of a sad person.
He may be looking like a helpless little kid at the moment, but don't treat him like a baby, treat him like a friend who needs support to stay upright
Step 4. Keep in touch, whether through phone calls, messages or visits
As long as you don't have the same routine, it's natural and inevitable that you spend time apart. On the other hand, if he's extremely sad, you can't disappear at once. It's not good to keep asking "Is everything okay with you?" all the time, though, it's willingly polite conversation from time to time.
Go beyond "I'm calling to see how you are." Make up an excuse, for example: ask him if he's seen your pink shirt and end up by asking him for a snack. Tell him about your day and ask the same. Again, don't forget that it's the simplest things that will make you good company
Step 5. Stay close, even if you don't know what to do
You will not solve your friend's problem, this is something he will do alone. However, having your shoulder close so you can cry and your presence so that you feel less helpless while dealing with the pain is most important.
- Strive to make a space in your schedule and have some free time for your friend. He will be grateful for your efforts to make him feel better.
- Don't give up your life for him. After all, you should only be a support, not a hero.
- Give your friend a hug, tell him you love him and that you will always be there to help.
- Offer help in cases of bullying. When witnessing an act of aggression, hug the victim and make them feel safe and comfortable. Always try to protect her, especially if you are her only friend.
- If your friend doesn't want to tell you what he's going through, don't insist. Give it time and he'll eventually come to you to talk and try to cheer himself up.
- Venture together! Do everything to distract and revive him.
- If the problem involves you, apologize. No matter what happened or who provoked it, friendship is more important than pride. If the disagreement remains, be patient until the wounds heal. Eventually, your friend will forgive you and get closer.
- Know the difference between being sad and looking for attention. There are cases where the person acts as if he's sad all the time, but he never leaves room for a friend to approach. In that case, she might be trying to get attention. Generally, when the sadness is real, the cause of the problem comes sooner or later.
- Never make fun of the cause of hurt, downplaying it or saying it's fresh. Never say that “It would happen one way or another” or “There's nothing else to do”. In particular, avoid saying "Get out of it" or "Move ahead".
- When your friend doesn't want to talk, convey affection through a hug or a gesture and affection.
- Show that you are open to conversation, ready to listen, but don't force anything.
- Don't make him open up. This type of gesture should be spontaneous, so respect his space and don't feel offended.
- Say something cool like, "I love you, no matter what's going on."
- Don't address your personal problems, offer sincere help. For example, if your friend said he or she is having problems with bullying at school or harassment at work, be willing to address the problem rather than telling how difficult it was for you to go through the same problem. Show compassion and empathy, the world lacks it.