There are times in life where we all face a crisis, and that’s when a good friend can make all the difference in how we cope. A good friend listens and is there to support us, and without friends, life would be a pretty bleak place. It can be difficult to know what to do when a friend is going through a hard time, but your support is key to getting them through it. If you have a friend in need and are looking for ways to help them, this guide shows you how.

Listen

By far, one of the best things you can do to support a friend in need is to listen. Listen to what they have to say physically, and also what they are revealing emotionally, to get a true understanding of what they are going through. As your friend talks, don’t interrupt them with your own stories about a similar situation and don’t think that you already know how they feel. Let them say everything they need to say. When it is your turn to talk, ask them open questions to allow them to explore their feeling with you further.

Use open body language to encourage your friend to speak openly with you. This means not using closed gestures like arm folding. An open posture subconsciously tells your friend that you are willing to listen to what they say, and you are there to support them.

Let your friend know that it is perfectly reasonable for them to be feeling the way that they do. Acknowledging your friend’s feelings as being important shows that you are listening, and good listening skills are essential if you want a friend to confide in and trust in you. Even if it is a quick phone call, it might make the world of difference to them. A level of trust will help to break down any potential barriers.

Empathize

See things from your friend’s point of view, rather than from a perspective of someone who is dishing out the advice. Empathy is a skill that is often misunderstood. People often see empathy as something where they consider what they would do if in another person’s shoes. But that isn’t what empathy is. Empathy is taking yourself out of the equation. It involves understanding what another person feels like in their own shoes!

Sometimes it can be hard to empathize, especially if a friend is dealing with something like addiction and is behaving in ways that you don’t approve of. If you do find it hard to empathize, try not to judge. Just listen and seek further advice if you need to.

Be Supportive

Just by being a shoulder to lean on may be enough to help your friend sort through their emotions and make some big life decisions.

Ask them questions that will help them decide what to do, so they can get the best outcome. You might ask things such as what they feel is most important to them and help them figure out the next steps to positively move things forward. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to say, but that is okay too. Be honest with your friend and tell them that you don’t know what to say, but you are there for them. Often, people in need are just looking for friends to understand them.

Offer to find out some information they need to know to learn more about their problem, and how to deal with it effectively. Encourage your friend to seek the support they need from authorities such as a doctor, counselors, or government associations if they need to.

It is also important to not try to persuade them with any specific advice, as often these things need to be decided by the person who it is affecting. It is okay to give your opinion if asked, but don’t lay on the advice too much. Also, you might not agree with your friend on some issues, but just provide support as they make their decisions, and they will thank you for it.

If your friend is going through a tough time, check in with them on a daily basis just to make sure they are okay and to let them know you are there. This might mean calling them on the phone for a quick chat or sending a text. Arrange to meet up often, as face to face talking will allow your friend to get things off their chest. You may feel like you are pestering, but it is better to be sure, and show you care.

Be firm if you need to

Although your friend is an adult and capable of making their own decisions, there are times when you should be firm. If you feel that your friend is severely depressed, might want to harm themselves in some way, are in danger, or are struggling to cope with an alcohol or drug addiction, then you can be firm and seek help on their behalf. For example, you might find rehab centers and call them for advice on how to help your friend.

If your friend displays behavior that is having a negative effect of those around them, then seek advice from the relevant helplines or support services available. Describe the situation to them and follow the professional advice they recommend. It is important to approach these things in the right way as you don’t want to alienate your friend so they feel they can’t come to you for support. Just explain gently that you have sought advice, and feel that you need to intervene in order to help them.

Be Positive

It might be hard for your friend to visualize their future beyond what they are currently experiencing. Gently remind them that life won’t always be this way and that things will get better. Allow them some time to come to terms with the difficulties they are facing, but also encourage them to make plans for the future. Don’t overdo it. If your friend is not ready to think about the future, then they might need more time.

Offer encouragement to help them make healthy choices, such as eating the right foods and getting some exercise, as they deal with their crisis. A simple walk outside, or coffee somewhere other than at home, can help refresh the senses and help them feel more positive.

Make Gestures of Kindness

A small gesture can mean a lot to someone who is going through a crisis. For example, a friend who is going through a divorce might really appreciate you offering to look after their children for the afternoon, or even a delivery of a hot meal you cooked to give them one less thing to think about for that day. A hand-written note or card put through their letterbox might be enough to raise a smile and to know that they are not alone.

Ask them what you can do

If you don’t know how to best help your friend in need, you could always ask them what you can do to help them with their situation. You might be surprised by the answer! However, do not do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or puts you in a difficult situation. Set some boundaries for your own self-preservation. Also, if you get too involved with the details, you might not be in a place where you can offer real help.

Judge the situation and don’t ask them how to help unless you know it will be useful.

Take care of yourself

Seeing a friend going through a tough time can sometimes make us feel powerless, and this can also take its toll on our own health and well-being. It hurts to see someone you care about suffer, so if you feel that you need to talk you feeling through with another person, then do so. Try not to break your friend’s confidence if they have asked you not to do so, but sorting through your own feelings with the help of another person can often help you in your mission to support your friend. Try to take an emotional step back from your friend’s problem when you are at home, allowing yourself to recharge mentally. This is easier said than done, but try to remember that your friend will come out the other side of their crisis eventually.

Helping a friend in need is something that most of us will do without hesitation. While you might not be able to fix a problem for them, just having your support will mean a lot. Reach out to a friend who is in trouble, as sometimes people keep their worries well hidden, especially those who are suffering from depression and anxiety. Sometimes all they need is someone to make an effort to ask if they are okay. Having someone to talk things over with can really help someone get a fresh perspective, and that can bring with it the positivity that gets them through a hard time.