Everyone goes through crisis. During those times, talking to trusted people helps you gain perspective and gives you ideas you haven’t thought of that help you make it through. Being able to talk to someone who cares about you helps you feel reassured that, above all else, you’ll still have someone who loves you when the crisis is over. But, sometimes, as that person who a loved one is leaning on for support, you feel lost. You don’t know what to say or what to do to help him or her feel better and get through the crisis. Sometimes you feel like you need help, too. Below are four tips to help you help your loved one through a crisis.
1. Talk Calmly
When a loved one is in crisis, he's usually overwhelmed with a host of things he's worried about. When he comes to you for support, talking calmly with him will help him feel less worried. It will also help him think more clearly through the difficulties he's having because he’ll feel calmer.
2. Don’t say everything will be OK
Not only is this cliché, but it’s not actually very reassuring when someone is feeling overwhelmed and worried. Plus, things might not actually be OK in the end. Whenever there’s a crisis, there’s a real possibility that someone's life will be permanently affected as a result. Be realistic, but not overly dramatic, about the difficulties your loved one is facing. Instead of saying everything will be OK, you can offer reassurances like, “I’ll be with you through this,” or, “You can make it through this.”
3. Help identify immediate, practical solutions
When someone is in crisis, she often only sees negative future outcomes. Instead of worrying about the future with her, talk to her matter of factly about the crisis and identify immediate practical solutions. Talk about specifics and help her think of things she can do today or tomorrow that will help her reach the outcome she wants.
4. Empathize, don’t argue
A lot of times, whenever there’s a crisis, the person in the crisis just wants to talk about how down he feels or how he has no options that end well for him. Instead of arguing with him or trying to convince him that things aren’t as bad as they seem, just empathize. Tell him that you understand what he's going through and empathize about how awful it is that he's going through it. This will help him feel cared for and understood. It will also help him come up with solutions on his own when he's not trying to convince you how hopeless things are.
Seeing a loved one in crisis is difficult. You want to help in any way you can. These four steps will help you support your loved one through the crisis and make sure that you’re being as helpful as you can be.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.