Have you noticed that lately you don’t have to look far to find a friend struggling? Between natural disasters, illness, relationship difficulties, work stress and a number of other areas of life, there seems to be enough challenges to go around!

In several recent conversations, far away friends shared how despite knowing what they’re going through, friends and family in their inner circle seemed to have all but disappeared. As a result, in addition to feeling overwhelmed, they now feel somewhat alone.

What can you do so that you don’t become a ghost when you’re needed most? Here are 10 suggestions on what you can do, and probably should resist doing to show your support.

10 Tips to Help a Friend:

What to do:

  • Listen without giving advice. Sometimes we just need a shoulder or a safe place to vent. We need a friend to be present and listen without trying to solve our problem.
  • Send a card or note. A hand written note can be an appreciated touch of encouragement.
  • Follow up. When your friend shares that they’re going through a hard time, call or touch base again. Even if you send a text or email saying you thought of them today, being “there” helps. Too often friends don’t want to be a bother so they’re silent when you need them the most.
  • Invite your friend out. Take your friend out for dinner, a cup of coffee, a movie, mini golf, to a paint bar, a sporting event or other activity. Some low stress time away from routine can provide a welcomed escape.
  • Make it. Bake cookies or brownies, make a homemade card or something else. Make something for your friend to show them they matter and are on your mind.
  • Educate yourself. Learn more about what they’re facing so that you can be empathetic and supportive. Look for organizational websites that offer insights into what your friend is facing and see if they offer practical suggestions of support.

What not to do:

  • Don’t just say ‘let me know if you need anything.” Most people who could use encouragement or support won’t call you to tell you when they need something. Instead, make an offer. Ask if you can drop dinner. Ask if she’d like you to bring the kids home from soccer practice. Look for ways you can help and offer. Your friend is more likely to ask for assistance if you’re already present and they know you’re sincere.
  • Don’t minimize or be a one-upper. When you listen, don’t turn it back to being about you or someone else. It could be worse stories won’t help your friend process their situation. Let it be about them and be there for them.
  • Don’t only talk about their problem. Before they were facing whatever there facing, your conversations weren’t limited to just one topic. Now that they’re facing a big issue, know that all of your conversations don’t need to be just about that.
  • Don’t take it personally. If your friend doesn’t respond to your texts or doesn’t return your calls, give them grace. If they’re going through a hard time, their lack of response is less about you or your relationship than it is about where they are.

It’s your turn:

If a particular friend popped into your mind as you read this list, why not reach out to them today and let them know you’re thinking about them. Or, maybe you only have to look as far as the mirror to find someone struggling. If that’s the case, I encourage you to reach out to a friend today and let them know that you could use their support. None of us need to face our tough seasons alone. Instead, we can get through together.

How have you shown support for a friend or family member? Or, how have your friends supported you that let you know you’re not alone? I’d love to add your ideas to the conversation. And, if this list has encouraged you to find new ways to be there for your friends, please click to comment and let me know.