How To Be Emotionally Supportive
While it is nice to bring someone a meal or offer to do their laundry while they’re going through a tough time, being there for them emotionally versus just practically can do a lot for them.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the toughest things to learn how to do… often because the person you’re wanting to support isn’t going to just come out and tell you when they need you. The fact that you’re wanting to be more emotionally supportive is an excellent place to start, and PYM wants to help support you, too!
Let’s talk about how you can be emotionally supportive for anyone in your life that needs a little extra love.
What is Emotional Support?
To start, what exactly is emotional support?
That’s part of what makes knowing what you can do to help emotionally support someone tricky… it looks different for everyone. A good place to begin is by asking them what they need. Sometimes, what they need is simply for someone to ask.
It is incredibly hard for anyone going through a “down” period in their life to be able to verbalize what would be helpful. Many people don’t want to feel like they’re being a nuisance. Just asking is a way to show your support, even if they don’t actually need any help.
One of the simultaneously easy and difficult ways to provide emotional support to anyone that may need it is by simply listening. However, that can be much more easily said than done.
Luckily, there are plenty of tips out there for becoming a better listener. Start by taking a moment to comprehend what they said to you as well as what is implied but not actually said. You’ll also want to pay attention to their body language and their tone of voice.
Before you reply, think about what you’re going to say and if that input is needed. Never interrupt, and make eye contact.
When you truly listen to someone else, especially if they may be going through a difficult time in their life, it is a quiet, unspoken way to validate that what they’re feeling is important, and that they are important to you.
Just sitting with someone, and not judging them if they cry, can do a lot.
Validation is Important
As we briefly just touched on, an important part of listening and being emotionally supportive for someone is validation.
Validation is a way to tell someone that you understand where they’re coming from, and that how they feel is real. You don’t need to help them come up with a solution, or provide any advice.
When you recognize that they are going through some kind of distress, showing non-judgemental concern says a lot more than words or physical actions. It also shows that you appreciate them, flaws and all, and that they are safe with you.
Phrases you can use when validating someone include “I am so sorry that you’re going through that,” and “I can see why you would feel [sad/stressed/angry] about that.” Try to avoid phrases that may sound judgemental, like “Why was she so mad at you?”
Just think about the last time that you went through a stressful period. What would you have liked to hear from the people trying to support you?
Offer A Hug
First and foremost, not everyone is a hugger… and that’s alright!
When you offer a hug, instead of just going in for one without asking, it allows the person you’re supporting to make the decision on whether or not they feel like being hugged. Consent is important, even with hugging.
However, for those that are open to being hugged, there are plenty of benefits! Studies have even shown that hugging is literally good for you, both for the hugger and the huggee. They can decrease the amount of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) in the body, and even lower the blood pressure and heart rate. Some research has even shown that hugging may support the immune system!
No matter how good hugging is for you on a physical level, it is even more beneficial on an emotional one. There are times when words are not enough, and you feel completely at a loss. Hugging is a way to show your support and validation without having to say a word… as long as they’re open to it.
Check In Regularly
Unless it’s a partner, child, or roommate that is going through a hard time, you’re not going to be around them all the time. Difficult times don’t just disappear overnight, so it’s tricky to know what you can do for them when you can’t be there physically.
In times like these, just checking in is enough. You can even just send a quick text message to let them know that you’re thinking about them. Try to avoid asking questions that they need to answer, because they may just not have the energy to respond. An “I love you” is great, too.
You can also try to pop by as often as you can, with permission, just to spend time with them or bring them a PYM Mood Chew. Don’t stop by unannounced, though, as this can just add extra stress to whatever they are already going through. However, you can leave them flowers, a card, or small gifts that let them know that they’re on your mind.
One of the kindest things you can do for someone who is going through a hard time is to learn how to be the most emotionally supportive you can be.
We can all use a reminder of how to be a better listener, or how to validate someone, no matter how good we may think we are at it.
At PYM, we understand all about the ups and downs that life can put you through, and we’re here for you, so that you can be there for someone else. We’re all in this together.