The world would see brighter and warmer smiles if we were more observant and less neglectful on seeing a gloomy expression on a friend's face. Learning to recognise emotional distress in one another is an important skill that I believe we all should have. Failing to help a friend in a time of need may be downplayed by thoughts such as being embarrassed to let them know that you care, or perhaps you may fear that your offer of comfort may be rejected. And given the opportunity to look away makes it easy to miss important signs.
I would like to share a few ways that we could be there for a friend, which would help us in times when we may not know what the right thing is to say.
Listen. This may be obvious but it is probably the most important one. Often people who are feeling down want a safe space where they are sure that they are with someone who is ready to listen. Offer this space to them. You need to also provide your full attention. Active listening is key. You can show that you are an active listener by paying attention to detail in their words, voices, and tones. And occasionally reflect on this. Though be careful to not just parrot their words. Instead listen to understand, not just to reply.
Care and show that you care. It is easy for someone who is having a bad day to feel lonely and make judgements where they feel like they have no one around them who cares about them. Genuine care goes a long way. Show that you care about them in that moment. Show them that you are genuinely concerned about their welfare and feelings. At this point, it is essential to remember that a true friend remains non-judgemental to the extent where the other person feels that they can share anything that is troubling their mind.
Positive reminders. Sometimes everyone needs a positive reminder about the good stuff. Whether you want to remind them of better days that they had, or remind them of the resilient and admirable person they are, words of comfort are undoubtedly uplifting. You may feel that this may be unnecessary as they 'know' that there are people who genuinely 'love' them, but emotional distress can be as powerful as forgetting fundamental facts.
And finally, offer a hand of help with the activity that they may have been in the middle of before you noticed a 'sad' expression. They may have been clearing up their desk in which you could offer to help. Yes, this may not be the most fun of tasks, but the feeling that arises post-helping someone promises to outweigh any labour that you may have endured.