Other Things to Consider
Effective listening. The key to all helping is listening, which can be more difficult than it might appear. Listening means that you consider your friend's concerns from his or her point of view. You aren't listening well if you are busy trying to think of what to say next or giving advice.
Listening may seem passive, like you aren't doing anything helpful. However, effective listening requires that you communicate your attentiveness to your friend:
- Look directly at him or her
- Ask questions to clarify things you don't understand
- Summarize what he or she says to be sure you understand
- Ask questions to help them express their thoughts and feelings
If your friend rejects what you have to say, or argues with you, ask yourself if you are listening carefully. You may have unknowingly slipped into advice-giving mode or begun talking about your own or other people's problems rather than the ones your friend is experiencing.
Help your friend express his/her feelings. The second most important part of helping is creating an atmosphere in which your friend can express feelings of sadness, frustration, anger or despair. When people we care about experience discomfort, our first reaction is often to do or say something to make them feel better. Unfortunately, this can cut off their feelings. If we move too quickly to do this, people may feel like their feelings should be held back because the feelings are too "bad."
Questions like, "How did you feel about what happened?" can help your friend get in touch with feelings. Just sitting with your friend while they express their various feelings about what is going on can be very helpful. Your understanding and supportive presence while they are sorting out their various thoughts and feelings is often more important and effective than any advice you may give to try to solve their problem.
Don't be afraid to escalate. In serious situations where you think you need outside help, you can talk to the CAPS counselor. Call (812) 855-5711, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.