How can we support our friends emotionally?

How can we support our friends emotionally?

Dr.Saad Ramzi Al- Hashimi, PhD -Health Sciences MSc-(hon) in Med Ultrasound.RMSKS.

Dr.Saad Ramzi Al- Hashimi, PhD

In these days, people losing thier jobs, laidoff, afraid from what will happen in the time of inflation and uncertainty. Some of your friends might going throw divorce, separation, funeral arrangements, bankruptcy, losing a child or a pet, fighting cancer and chronic illness, fitting drug addictions, alcoholism, gamboling or having depression and mental illnesses. Some might going throw stress nd anger issues, aggression, anxiety issues and so on.

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or thier country in a war situation ,like in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Philistines , Kurdistan, etc. Things can change overnight , you wake up and your house on fire or your car dont work, or your country is gone. You find your self running with some belonging and your pet in your arm, running away from the familiar places to the unknown , like most of us immigrants who lost our homes, parents and the things we love.

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Then the reality sets in , you have to survive. learn a new language, work in any place possible to survive and start from zero. you get the shock and denial behind you and now the anger is building up inside you from the trauma and post traumatic events that haunt you even in your sleep throw nigh mares.

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I have been throw 7 wars situations before , migrated to Germany and Greece then Canada back in 1979, and until now I do see some dreams over and over again almost the same dream, but I learn to focus and live the moment and dont let the past haunt me.

Your friend is devastated. she ‘is just lost her jobs and looks like she’s about to burst into tears in the middle of the busy coffee shop. You don’t know what to do. You want to help her, but what do you say in this horrible situation? How do you make her feel better right now, and how can you help her get through the tough time to come?

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I have many patients that cried in my ultrasound table remembering thier dying pets, or thier parents, or they just got the news that thier baby have no heart beats (fetal demise), and all they need is some one to hear them and listen, without judgments, some one who is sympathetic and feel thier pain, they want to share thier story and pain.

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We’ve all been in situations like this, both big and small and everything in between: from a friend burning the food at their dinner party, to struggling with the loss of a loved one; from missing the bus to work, to enduring a marriage breakdown. Common wisdom suggests that a problem shared is a problem halved.

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We really want to help, yet we don’t quite have the words or the tactics. You might have felt yourself freeze in these moments, paralyzed by the thought that anything you say or do could be a little awkward, or even make things worse.

Research shows that many people don’t really know what works best to help their friends effectively. Moreover, the support we do provide, such as giving advice, is often ineffective. Part of the challenge is that there are just so many possible ways to intervene.

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A survey of the methods that people used to manage their friends’ emotions identified many distinct strategies, including allowing the other person to vent their emotions, acting silly to make the other person laugh, and helping to rationalize the other person’s decisions. Given this large variety of strategies, it’s no wonder that deciding what to do when you have a friend in tears can be a little overwhelming.

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The good news is that there are evidence-based support strategies you can learn that will help you provide more effective support to your friends. What’s more, providing support to your friends is good both for them and for you. 

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Receiving social support from friends has benefits: in general, people who are supported tend to be more mentally and physically healthy. 

This might be because support from our friends and family is a strong buffer against the stress caused by tough times. Giving social support to friends also has benefits: when we support another person, it helps to strengthen our relationship with that person, and it makes us feel better (with the benefits being even greater when we feel like we’ve done a good job helping).

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It reminds me of the raven story, as once was a raven flying free and seen so many beautiful colorful birds around and he was thinking to himself why he is not colorful like them , and they must be so happy. So he kept asking each one of those beautiful colorful birds about hippieness and each bird told him that the other bird must be happier until he was told that the happiest bird is the peacock and he live in the zoo.

So the raven flow and came to the peacock and asked him the same question, then the peacock saddlery answered back and said, No, I am not the happiest bird at all, I have been in this prison so people can see mee for few years , and every time I look in the sky and see a raven flying freely in the sky I think he must be the happiest man in the world.

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When we think that someone is catastrophizing something that (to us) is not a big deal, it can be tempting to ignore them, downplay them or be dismissive, but that would be a mistake and will likely end badly. Whatever your own take on your friend’s dilemma, it’s important to be responsive to their requests, and to priorities trying to understand how they feel.

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So by being supportive is helpful only when we are responsive in this way. Moreover, being responsive to other people – trying to understand them, valuing their opinions and abilities, and making them feel cared for is a cornerstone of good relationships.

Just as playing down a friend’s problem is unwise, so too is trying to empathise too quickly, including jumping in with rapid advice. While this impulse is understandable and quite normal, it is also likely to go wrong. Although we tend to assume that we can tell how other people are thinking using our empathy, research has shown that we’re actually really bad at taking other people’s perspectives.

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Listening well can also be a challenge, but again there is psychology research that can help. To be a more effective listener, you can begin with two easy tactics. First, be attentive to the other person, and signal that you’re listening carefully by using nonverbal signals (such as nodding and smiling) and brief phrases (such as ‘Mmhmm’ or ‘Oh really?’). But dont fake it, or look at the sky ,your cell phone or watch.

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Second, provide ‘scaffolding’ questions that help your friend to elaborate on their story or their feelings, such as: ‘And what happened next?’ or ‘How did you feel after that?’ This can help them feel supported and heard. These skills may seem self-evident, but they’re particularly easy to forget in the moment, as we get distracted by our phones, or inclined to hurry our friends along to get to the point of their stories.

A related technique to try is active listening, which is commonly used by therapists, and relatively simple to implement. One form of active listening involves paraphrasing what your friend is saying in your own words, which can help them feel better.

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For example, your friend might spend some time explaining a series of stressful events across their week, describing arguments with their spouse, a mounting workload and some worries about debt, and you might paraphrase by saying that it sounds like they are overwhelmed both at home and at work right now.

Give an emotional support, start by validating thier feelings, reframing and dont be judgmental. Remember that emotional support alone is no effective with out the cognitive support that should follow.

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One additional concern with cognitive support is making sure that the reframe you suggest doesn’t slip into invalidating or downplaying your friend’s feelings. The dividing line here can be difficult to navigate. The key is to ensure your reframe doesn’t negate your friend’s feelings that the initial situation was upsetting. Instead, focus your reframing on unexpected upsides not yet considered, or future avenues to move past the initial problem.

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More generally, adopting the one-two punch approach of always beginning with validation is likely to help with this problem: if you begin from a perspective of validating, it’ll become more obvious to you when the reframes you provide are contradicting that validation.

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Your friend has a terrible boss. he / she have been struggling to deal with this for a while, and they’ve been constantly unhappy. You think they should quit and find another job with a better mentor, and you tell them as much.

Although you had good intentions, telling Jay straight up to quit would be a mistake. Very direct and obvious help can sometimes make people feel as if they are helpless. In research  , people who received obvious and visible social support – rather than subtle, invisible social support – felt more stressed about an upcoming negative event. If your support is too directive and take-charge, it might make your friend feel like they aren’t able to handle things on their own, like a kid who needs their parent’s help to manage their problems.

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Instead, it would have been better to ask Jay what they want, and how they might be able to change this situation, and then listen to them talk through their options one by one. In doing this, you provide a sounding board for Jay to take control of the situation on their own. Your aim should be to facilitae the other person’s choices, rather than dominating them. This will help them organize their thoughts and come to some solutions, without feeling like you did it for them.

Your housemate A calls you to complain about your other housemate B.

B- hasn’t been doing her share of the chores, and A is at the end of his patience. You too are annoyed at B and, after a while, you realize that you and A have been going back and forth complaining about B for 10 minutes, and now you’re both feeling pretty upset.

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Sympathizing with a friend’s dilemma and venting together might seem like a supportive strategy that shows you’re both in the same boat and you’re happy to talk it over at length. However, this approach can go too far. In the above scenario, it’s likely to pull you and Jordan into a downward spiral of negativity.

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Although I’ve discussed ways in which talking about problems with your friends can help, if taken to an extreme, it can become a problematic issue called co-rumination. This involves talking excessively with other people about problems, and constantly dwelling on those problems together without looking for solutions. Such behaviour results in both people feeling worse. 

You should simply know that co-rumination exists might help people avoid these kinds of negative spirals. Distraction can help, that feeling of being stuck in a problem so, next, you and A could have agreed to stop the discussion for a few hours, and do something that distracts you both, before coming back to figure out how to deal with the issue B .

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Simply be yourself, don’t take sides, listen to the problem, wait and think then study the situation , make sound advise that you don’t have to regret later, be supportive and balanced don’t get angry and get upset , learn from other people mistakes too, and find a temperedly solution then later a complete solution that all parties agrees on.

Thank you

Saad Ramzi Ismail Al-Hashimi, PhD.

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