7 tips about how to be there for the people who need you most
1. Give your friend only as much information as s/he can handle Offer a few simple suggestions, phone numbers, pamphlets and/or links. Try not to overwhelm him/her with information than s/he can process at that moment. Too much information might leave him/her feeling incompetent and unworthy.
2. Don’t take your friend's power away When we take decision-making power out of people’s hands, we leave them feeling useless and incompetent. There may be some times when we need to step in and make hard decisions for other people (ie. if s/he or his/her children are in imminent danger), but in almost every other case, people need the autonomy to make their own choices even if they're not the ones we think they 'should' make. Offer support but don't try to direct or control your friend.
3. Keep your own ego out of it This is a biggie! We all get caught in that trap now and then – when we begin to believe that someone else’s success is dependent on our intervention or when we think that their failure reflects poorly on us or when we’re convinced that whatever emotions they choose to unload on us are about us instead of them. To truly support someone, keep your own ego out of it and create the space where your friend has the opportunity to grow and learn.
4. Withhold judgement When people learn, grow or go through grief or transition, they are bound to make some mistakes along the way. It's our job as their friend and 'space holder', to withhold judgement and shame. Help your friend reach inside him/herself to find the courage to take risks and the resilience to keep going even when s/he 'fails'. Let your friend know that 'failure' is simply a part of the journey, not the end of the world, so that s/he'll spend less time beating him/herself up for it and more time learning from his/her 'mistakes'.
5. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness A wise friend knows when to withhold guidance (ie. when it makes a person feel foolish and inadequate) and when to offer it gently (ie. when a person asks for it or is too lost to know what to ask for). Try to recognise the areas where your friend feels most vulnerable and incapable, then offer him/her help without shaming your friend.
6. Become a 'container' for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc When people feel that they are held in a deeper way than they are used to, they feel safe enough to allow complex emotions to surface that might normally remain hidden. Good friends know that this can happen. Be prepared to 'hold space' for your friend in a gentle, supportive, and nonjudgmental way. Check out the article The Circle Way where the author talks about 'holding the rim' for people. The circle becomes the space where people feel safe enough to fall apart without fearing that this will leave them permanently broken or that they will be shamed by others because someone is there to offer strength and courage by demonstrating tenderness, compassion and confidence.
7. Allow your friend the right to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would To be a good friend is to respect the other person’s differences and recognising that those differences may lead to them making choices that we would not make.
These tips are adapted from http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/
Do you know what to look out for or how to safely support a friend experiencing domestic violence?
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