All Women's Talk

8 Tips for Encouraging a Friend ...

By Jennifer

Encourage a Friend by being there, offering compassion, giving them a shoulder to cry on -- there are many ways to do it. At some point, you'll need to Encourage a Friend, much the same way your friends have encouraged you. Encouraging a friend goes hand in hand with celebrating their successes as something all good friends do, right? But sometimes when something bad happens, we have a hard time figuring out what to say our do to encourage your friends. I've been on both sides of the encouragement equation, so I know how painful and awkward it can be, but it doesn't have to be that way! Here are 7 tips for encouraging a friend.

1 Stay in Touch

When a friend suffers a loss or another kind of heartbreak, sometimes we don't know what to say, so we don't say anything at all. The first step in encouraging a friend is to be there, to stay in touch. A phone call or visit can work wonders for a friend's attitude, so pick up the phone and call, or hop in the car and drive.

2 Listen

Be prepared for awkward, loaded silences, but also be prepared to listen. Your friend may need nothing more than a patient, attentive ear, so learn to listen without interruption, and to really pay attention what your friend is saying.

3 Commiserate

While you're listening to your friend, feel free to commiserate; I know that really makes me feel encouraged. It can truly be as simple as saying “that sucks” or “that's horrible” … sometimes to encourage a friend they just need acknowledgment that the situation they're in is wretched.

4 Don't Offer Unwanted Advice

Be wary of offering advice to a friend who's pouring out her heart. You might have wanted to tell her for years that her job or boyfriend or best friend was awful, but right now is not the time. Listen to what's wrong, and offer advice only if you know she wants it.

5 Don't Judge

Remember, you're here to encourage a friend, not judge her. Unless you think your judgment will save her further harm, reserve it, or at least keep it to yourself.

6 Offer Help, and Be Specific

Don't tell your friend “let me know if you need anything.” Chances are, your friend won't ask you. Instead, make a very specific offer, like “I'll take the kids for a few hours tomorrow” or “I'll go grocery shopping for you this weekend.” Don't take no for an answer, either... if your friend declines, call back in a week and make another offer.

7 Save the Religious Clichés

Even the most devour, pious person will be annoyed or irritated if you offer a cliché rather than actual encouragement. I'm sure it's not “God's plan” for something horrible to happen to your friend, and hearing that “God won't close a door without opening a window” won't help either.

8 Don't Be Afraid to Offer Chocolate

If all else fails, pull out all of the stops to encourage a friend, and offer cheesecake or chocolate or even Ben & Jerry's. I have yet to encounter a situation, no matter how gut-wrenching, that won't be helped a tiny bit by comfort food, and the friend who visited me, bearing it.

Encouraging a friend isn't always easy, but it's something a good friend, like you, will do, now that you know how. Even if it's awkward, even if it's difficult, it's important to encourage a friend who needs it, and it's something they'll appreciate, and remember, and someday possibly even reciprocate when you need encouragement. Which of these tips do you think you'll find helpful when you'll need to encourage ****a friend? Or is there something else you think would be helpful? Do tell!

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