When a friend is in need, it can be hard to know how to react, here are some tips to help you listen and help a friend in need.
1) Ask if everything is okay
“How are you feeling?” Sometimes someone just needs to be asked if they are okay. Asking a simple, “how do you feel?” will let the other person know you are open to chat.
2) Just listen
If your friend starts to talk, let them speak. Don’t interrupt in the first few minutes. If you’re confused about the timeline or the people involved, circle back round to it in your repeat back.
3) Repeat back
Let your friend know that you’ve been listening by repeating back some of what they’ve said to you. In a way, it can help you summarise what you’ve heard. If you’re unclear on something here is where you can explore.
4) Ask open questions
Don’t shut the conversation down by asking a closed question. These are questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No”. Instead look for open questions which will allow someone to open up and talk. They usually begin with “How”, “Why”, “What”. Closed questions begin with: “Is…”, “Can…”, “Did…” and “Are…”
5) Verbal nods
When someone is talking and sharing with you, you’ll want to show that you’re actively listening. You can do this with verbal nods, which are affirmative sounds, like “yes”, “okay” or “I hear you”.
6) Use their language
Sometimes people struggle with the right terminology or words to express themselves. Echo some of the words that stick out to you. It can act as a way of letting someone explain the way they feel more fully.
7) Don’t judge
It can be difficult not to judge someone and their actions based on what you think you’d do in the same situation. But you’re not in their situation so your judgement is pretty irrelevant here. Just listen. This is a really good moment to check how you’re sounding and talking. How is your tone of voice?
8) Don’t make it about you
Be there for your friend, so let them have this moment. Let them get everything they need to off their chest.
9) Don’t tell someone that you “get it” or “I know you feel”.
The likelihood is that you don’t or won’t. Unless you’ve been in exactly the same situation you won’t know what they’re going through. Even if you have been through something similar to your friend, you are both very different people and will deal with situations differently. It’s best to say something like, “I hear you”, “I understand what you’re saying”.
10) Don’t try and fix it
This can be really tough because you might feel like you’ve got the answer, but it’s always best to let people work out their own answers that will work with their circumstances. Also, how often do people really take advice – especially when it isn’t asked for… never. So ask your friend what they think the solution is and then repeat steps 3 to 9.
11) Speak to a stranger
Suggest that they call the Samaritans or Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline. Speaking to a stranger or someone on the end of a phone, who isn’t connected to them in any way can be a way in which your friend might feel more comfortable sharing their problems with. Samaritan’s phone number is: 116 123 or Switchboard is: 0330 330 0630.
The editor and chief of THEGAYUK. All in a previous life wrote and produced songs on multi-platinum records.