A friend in need is a friend not in need of me.
April 19, 2005 4:19 PM Subscribe
How do I learn what to say to a friend in need?
posted by schroedinger to human relations (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty bad at comforting friends who are depressed/down/anxious/getting over a breakup/grieving/revealing a delicate secret/etc. These situations require tact and a wise word here and there, and I'm prone to either awkward silences or cracking a poor joke in a failed attempt to cheer them up. At best nothing improves, at the worst I hurt their feelings. The result is my friends tend to avoid me when they're in trouble or in need of comfort.
I would desperately like to be able to help the people I care about. But I don't quite know how--I think the art of comforting is something one picks up while growing up, but since I didn't really start interacting with people until a few years ago I'm a bit behind. I don't have any problem with asking people what they want me to do, but if someone's mom just died they're not really up to giving me step-by-step instructions on helping them feel better. I try think of what helped me when I was in a similar situation, but since I generally don't talk to others when I'm feeling down that isn't much help, either.
Are there any crash courses to figuring out the right thing to say in different situations? How did you learn what to do when someone's feeling down? When do you distract them? When do you ask if they want to talk about it? When do you talk and when do you listen? When do you bake them a pie and when do you leave them alone? Any tips on picking up on grief cues would be greatly appreciated.