How do you help a friend when she’s in crisis and you can see the decisions she’s making are not good?
I appreciate the opportunity to address this question because so many of you have asked this exact question whether it be about a friend or a family member.
So here is what I have to say:
Listen: Just listen to your friend. Let him/her speak. Sometimes venting is good. YOU are not supposed to do anything. In fact, if you do, then you are making it about you instead of your friend. This is about your friend!
Focus on Strengths: Most people start to reflect back how bad the situation is with statements like “He did not do THAT?!” or “Oh my god, that’s awful…you poor thing!” The worst thing about this is now YOU are buying into the victim story.
The best thing you can do is reflect back to your friend his or her strengths. Something like, “Well buddy, I know you, and whenever you know what you want, you go for it.” Or “You are so courageous/patient/practical.” In this way, you re-focus the conversation on the possibility of something good happening, instead of “feeding the fire”.
Shift the Energy of the Conversation: Sometimes just focusing on your friend’s strengths can shift the energy. But if it doesn’t, you can use humor, or compassion, or just deflect and you can shift the energy of the crisis.
Why is this important?
When your friend is overwhelmed with the crisis and complaining about it, he or she is in a negative state of mind. By shifting the energy to something more positive, your friend can, more likely, FEEL better. When you feel better, you make better choices and decisions that are more in line with what you really want. The focus or conversation is now empowered rather than victimized.
In this way you are practicing a more detached awareness of what is going on, rather than focusing on what is wrong.
You will actually help your friend more by contributing a positive feeling or attitude than commiserating.
Hope this helps