The Right Kind of Support

Posted March 7, 2011 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

It’s a natural response to want to support our friends when they walk through difficult times in their lives. I know, because in the last three years, I’ve walked through some pretty difficult times. And I’ve had a group of phenomenally supportive and giving friends. But what I realize now is that sometimes, people need a few tips on the best ways to support friends or family members through a tough time, whether in their personal lives or careers. So here’s a few tips:

  • Quit with the solutions. You can’t solve someone’s problems for them. Spending your time giving them what, to you, seem like easy solutions isn’t going to help. To get through loss or anger or frustration, you have to find the solution on your own.
  • Reach out. This is most important! When someone is feeling down on themselves or their situation, they often feel like a burden for reaching out and asking for help. They may even back away when you reach out because they don’t want to go into the details of what’s going on. Keep reaching out. Keep saying hello. Let them know you’re there.
  • Stay neutral until they ask you to delve in. Sometimes, it’s nice just to talk to someone about “nothing” – the weather, clothes, television, food, etc. rather than getting into the crux of the issue. So don’t enter the phone call with the dreaded and pitiful “How are you?” It just makes the person feel badly and like you’re only calling because they’re having a tough time.
  • Stay normal. If you’d go out for drinks twice a week, keep doing it. Don’t change your plans or the frequency of your visits just to compensate for the difficult situation.

Overall, keep supporting the people you love in your life. But understand they may need time to respond and engage. Asking for what you need isn’t easy during trials and tribulations. Once they come through the storm, though, they’ll appreciate even more what you tried to do during that period

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."