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How to Help an Unhappy Friend: Studio 5

How to help and unhappy friend: Julie Hanks, LCSW on Studio 5

True friends often go through a lot together. They experience the joys and good times, and sometimes they seeeach other through harder seasons of life as well. But it can be difficult to know exactly how to react when a friend is weathering a particularly difficult storm or is in some way unfulfilled. Here are 5 strategies to employ when a friend is unhappy:

1) Show Empathy

It’s important that you feel with your friend but not take on her pain or problem as your own. If you find yourself thinking about your friend’s troubles more than she does, you may need to take a step back and set an emotional boundary.

2) Ask Questions

Make sure you ask her questions about her experience in order to try to fully understand what she’s going through. Be sure to not attempt to solve her problems; this isn’t your job and can also come across as condescending. Avoid statements like, “If you would just do ______.” Simply listening and asking questions is one of the best ways you can help her.

3) Offer Validating Statements

Validate your friend’s troubles as important and never minimize them. Statements like, “I can’t believe you’re this upset!” or “it’s not that big of a deal,” are not at all helpful and are actually quite rude. Try instead to honor your friend’s pain and let her know you can see why she’s upset.

4) Let Her Feel

Avoid trying to one-up or outdo her by saying something like, “You think that’s bad? Wait ’til you hear what I’VE been through!” You are not there to compare your suffering with hers. Let her experience whatever emotions she is feeling.

5) Reflect Back

Don’t try to change her mind, and be very careful when seeking to “comfort” her. Statements like, “you should be grateful that ______” are not appropriate. Don’t tell your friend how she “should” feel about something. Instead, reflect back whatever pain she is feeling.

What have you done or said to help a struggling friend?

When you’re going through a period of unhappiness, what do you wish your friends would do or say to support you?

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

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