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Live Well: Supporting Someone Who’s Struggling

December 15, 2023


It’s hard to see someone else go through a tough time. It makes you wish you had a magic wand so you could just make the problem go away entirely. Fortunately, there are several ways to offer support to someone who’s suffering—and you don’t need a magic wand. You just need empathy, kindness, and respect.

Be an active listener

Listening isn’t just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can start. True listening requires working to understand the other person. You can do this by:

  • Focusing on them and avoiding distractions (like your phone)
  • Asking respectful questions if you’re confused by something they say
  • Summarizing what they tell you to make sure you understand

Validate their feelings

Sometimes just being able to vent about a problem is all someone needs. In that situation, just saying something that acknowledges their feelings—without minimizing the issue—can help. Here’s an example: “I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. It sounds like a really tough situation.”

Do something thoughtful

Actions (almost always) speak louder than words. If you know someone who’s suffering, a small act of kindness can show that you care. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bring a meal
  • Give flowers
  • Send a card
  • Offer to run an errand

Don’t be a “fixer”

As tempting as the idea of a magic wand may be, most people don’t want you to “fix” their problem. They really just want to know that you care.