Be Socially and Emotionally Supportive
People show emotional support for others by offering genuine encouragement, reassurance, and compassion. This might include things like verbal expressions of sympathy or physical gestures of affection.
Emotional support can come from other sources, too — religious or spiritual sources, community activities, or even your pets. Whatever form it takes, this support can improve anyone’s outlook and general wellness.
Some people have a knack for being emotionally supportive, but this skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
ASK AND LISTEN
When you want to provide emotional support to someone you care about, asking a few questions is a great place to start.
“How can I support you?” can sometimes work, but it’s not always the best approach.
While good intentions lie behind questions like these, they sometimes fail to have the impact you desire.
People don’t always know what they want or need, especially in the middle of a difficult situation. So, this question can be so broad it leaves someone unsure how to reply.
Instead, try asking questions tailored to a situation or the person’s state of mind, such as:
- “You seem a little upset today. Would you like to talk about it?”
- “I know your boss was giving you a tough time. How have you been holding up?”
If you know someone has faced some challenges and aren’t sure how to open a conversation, try starting with some general questions, such as, “What’s been happening in your life lately?”
Try to keep your questions open-ended instead of asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” This invites an explanation and helps keep the discussion going.
It’s not enough to simply ask questions. Listening actively, or empathically, is another important part of providing emotional support.
When you really listen to someone, you give them your full attention. Show interest in their words by:
- displaying open body language, like turning your body toward them, relaxing your face, or keeping your arms and legs uncrossed
- avoiding distractions, like playing with your phone or thinking about other things you need to do
- nodding along with their words or making noises of agreement instead of interrupting
- asking for clarification when you don’t understand something
- summarizing what they’ve said to show you have a good grasp of the situation
Using good listening skills shows others you care about what they’re going through. For someone who’s struggling, knowing that someone else has heard their pain can make a big difference.