How To Comfort Someone Who Is Upset Or In Distress
How to Comfort an Upset Friend
There probably has been, and will be, a time in your life when a friend comes to you upset over something that has happened to them. Maybe they ended a romantic relationship, lost their job, lost a loved one, etc. Regardless of the situation, you will want to be a good friend and support them. And you can by figuring out what’s wrong, listening and talking to them, and comforting them in other ways.
Calming Your Friend Down
Stay calm.Your friend might be very upset, but you can’t effectively help if you become hysterical or panicked yourself. Take a deep breath (or two). Remind yourself that you can be here for your friend.
Make sure they are in a comfortable, safe place.Find somewhere that they are able to let out all their pain, frustration, confusion, etc.
- Find somewhere that has no or few people so that your friend doesn’t have to worry about anyone unwanted seeing them upset and so you don’t disturb anyone. This may mean going to another room, outside, etc.
- If needed, find somewhere safe where your friend can release their feelings without getting hurt or damaging anything.You may need to go to a room that doesn’t have a lot furniture or an open space outside.
- If you are on the phone with your friend, ask them are they somewhere that they feel safe and comfortable. If not, and if possible, go pick them up and take them somewhere else.
Let them cry, rant, talk as long as they need to.As long as they are not hurting themselves or damaging property, allow them to work out what they are feeling. Your friend is relying on you to be there for them in their time of need.
- If necessary, give them space to safely release any physical tension they may be feeling.
- Try not to tell them to stop crying, or yelling, etc. unless it seems that they are getting more upset.
- If you are on the phone with them, just listen and wait while they release their emotions. Occasionally, say things like, “I’m here for you” so that they will know you are still on the line.
Pay attention to your friend’s body language.Sometimes people will say they are okay, but their body language tells a different story. Certain body signs can be indicators of your friend’s distress. Body language can tell you that you may need to help them calm down before they can tell you what happened.
- Sometimes body language is obvious. For example, are they crying? Are they sweating or shaking? Is your friend punching the air or pacing the room?
- Sometimes body language can be more subtle. Is their body tense or rigid? Hands clinched? Is their jaw tightened? Are their eyes red or puffy as if they were recently crying?
Determining What’s Wrong
Make sure there are no distractions.This way, you can listen attentively to your friend without being interrupted or having to focus on anything else.
- It may be difficult for your friend to tell you what’s wrong if there are a lot of distractions for you and them.
- Try to go somewhere quiet, if you aren’t already in a quiet place.
- Turn off your electronic devices or at least put them on silent mode. It can be distracting when your phone is beeping, pinging, and ringing every few seconds.
Give your friend your full attention.Let your friend know that nothing is more important to you than them right now.
- Try to clear your mind so that you aren’t thinking about anything that might distract you. Focus on just listening to your friend and taking in what they are telling you.
- Use your body language to let them know they have your attention. Turn towards them. Look at them.
- Tell them that they have your attention. Try saying, “You have my full attention and I’m here for you.”
Find out exactly what has your friend upset.Calmly, ask your friend what is going on or what happened. For example, you might say, “I want to know what has you so upset. Please tell me what’s wrong.” Or even, “What’s going on? What happened?”
Don't force your friend to tell you what is wrong.Forcing them is more likely to make them bottle their feelings up. It could also cause them to become upset again or upset them even more.
- Assure them that you are there when they are ready to talk about it, and create trust.
- Try saying something like, “There’s no rush, I’m here for you. You can tell me when you are ready.”
- Sit quietly with them until they are ready to talk to you.
- Your friend may also make small talk while they are building up their courage to tell you what happened.
Be patient.They may not immediately want to tell what is going on, but, if you give them a little time, they will eventually open up to you on their own.
Listening and Talking
Be a good listener.It is very likely that your friend needs to talk about what happened (or is happening) and how they feel about it.When they do decide to open up, let them talk about their situation and their feelings.
- Listen to what your friend is saying, as well as how it is being said. A lot of times the way someone says something can tell you as much as what they say.
- Try not to interrupt a lot or make them feel rushed. Sometimes it is hard for people to talk about the things that are upsetting them.
- Think about what they are telling you, not how you are going to respond to what they are saying.
Ask questions for clarification.If you don’t understand something, in a sensitive way, ask your friend to explain more or repeat what they said.
- This can help you really understand what happened that has your friend upset.
- You can say things like, “So what you’re saying is…” or “So, in other words, what happened was…”
- This also lets your friend know you are truly listening and care about what they are telling you.
Correct any negative statements they say about themselves.For example, if they say "I'm worthless" or "I don't deserve to be happy", turn it around and say "Of course you deserve to be happy!" and/or "You aren't worthless; look at how many people love you and care about you. I love you and care about you too."
Don’t trivialize their problems.Telling someone about a similar or worse situation, reminding them that it could be worse, or that things are worse for some people may seem like a good idea, but it can do more harm than good.
- It can make your friend feel like you really don’t understand or care how bad the situation is making them feel.
- It can sound like you are calling them a “crybaby” or implying that they are upset over nothing.
- Instead, say things like, “I can understand that you are upset” or “I see why you are upset”.
Don’t try to solve their problems.Unless it is an emergency or they ask you for help in doing so, refrain from telling them how you would handle the situation.Most often, people just want someone to listen to them.
Talk about getting professional help.If your friend has been the victim of abuse or a crime, let them know you would like to contact the appropriate authorities so that they can receive the proper help.
- If they don’t want to, then don’t press it. That might cause them to become more upset. Let it go for now.
- Try to discourage them from doing anything that could disturb or destroy evidence of the incident (for example, deleting texts, taking a shower or bath, etc.).
- When it seems okay, bring up going to the authorities again. Let your friend know there are professionals that can protect them (if needed) and help them cope with what happened.
- You can try saying,”I really think we need to talk to [the police, a doctor, etc.] about this. They can help you get through this. Why don’t we call them together?”
Offering Comfort in Other Ways
Don't be afraid to console them.Give them appropriate verbal and physical support. Be loving and let them cry on you if they want to.
- First, make sure your friend is okay with physical contact! For example, you might say, “Is it okay if I give you a hug?” or “Is it all right if I hold you?”.
- Physical contact can be very comforting, but ask your friend if they are okay with hugging, cuddling, or any other type of touching before you do it.
- Contact can make people feel better, but if they don't want it, don't do it.
Pray or meditate.Sometimes just sitting quietly, whether it is in prayer or meditation or not, can help calm people and provide some comfort.
Release some physical energy.Doing something active and physical can help your friend release negative physical energy. This can help calm your friend down or distract them from the situation for a moment.
- For example, take a brief walk, jog, go for a swim, or bike ride.
- Do yoga, tai chi, or some simple stretching.
Distract your friend.Sometimes, the only thing you can do is try to keep your friend from thinking about what is bothering them.
- Offer, or just take them, to do something that they like. Go for ice cream or a movie.
- Get them involved in a project, for example, sorting clothes to donate or gardening.
- Find something humorous like a funny meme, video clip, etc. to try to lighten your friend’s mood a bit.
QuestionHow do I deal with a situation where my friend and I are both crying?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can cry together; there is nothing wrong with sharing grief. Hold your friend and let the tears come. Once both of you have stopped crying, you can talk about whatever has made you cry.Thanks!
QuestionMy crush is crying, and I'm hiding in the bathroom. Quick, how can I help him stop crying? I'm scared that if I hug him he'll think I'm weird, but I feel bad just leaving him crying in a corner alone!wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you like him, and he's upset, just take a chance. Go up to him and ask him if he is okay. Offer him a coffee or a chat with you and see where things go. Try cheering him up, or just simply giving him a reassuring smile. Sit with him and try to understand him. If you feel anything similar or you can relate to him, let him know that he's not alone and that you understand how he's feeling.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do when both my friend and I are crying after a fight or argument?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGive yourselves some time to calm down a bit, then see if you can approach your friend and rationally work through the issue.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I help a friend with a relationship problem?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk her about what happened in her relationship. It could be a breakup, a fight, etc. Tell your friend that you're there for them no matter what. If your friend wants to be left alone or doesn't want to talk about it, respect their wishes.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do when people tell my friend that she is not good enough for a role in a play?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLet her know that she is worth it and is very talented. Be sure to uplift her and let her know how you feel about her. Also explain to her that there are always only so many roles to go around in a play and that the people who have practiced most tend to get them. Suggest that she does more drama class to help her to improve.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I explain to my friend that she hurts my feelings when she ignores me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust tell her that she truly hurt your feelings, and if she ignores you, then she's not a good friend. Remember a true friend cares about you and wouldn't do nothing that they know will hurt you feelings.Thanks!
QuestionI don't know if my friend has depression. How can I tell if she is okay?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk her if she is okay. If she says she is fine, then be aware that this isn't always the truth and can be an attempt to conceal pain or hide the reality. Hug her and tell her you are here for her and that everything will be okay. Be upfront and be kind. If she wants to talk, she will and if you spot signs of depression, then you can try to get some help for her.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I comfort a crying friend at a sleepover?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can comfort your friend at a sleepover the same way you would comfort her at any other time. Listen to why she's upset and try to resolve the situation. Sometimes all you need to do is listen. If your friend is crying because she's homesick, try to distract her with something fun, like a game or a movie, anything to take her mind off it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my friend doesn't trust me anymore?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt really depends on the reason that they no longer trust you. Acknowledge their lack of trust but reassure them that you are still here and willing to listen/help if they need someone to talk to. If they refuse the offer or push you away, don't force it; give them time to start trusting you again. If you are worried about your friend's safety, you should talk to someone who is closer to them and let them know your concerns.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I comfort my crying friend at school?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGet her tissues and take her to a quiet corner and ask her what happened. Don't force her to tell you, if she doesn't want to. If she's extremely upset, you may want to get a teacher.Thanks!
To comfort an upset friend, first let them cry or yell so they can safely release tension and work through their feelings. Next, when they feel ready to talk, calmly ask your friend what’s wrong. Then, as they’re talking, ask questions to clarify anything you don’t understand and to show your friend that you’re really listening. Additionally, correct them if they say something like “I’m worthless,” for example, by saying something like “You’re worth something to a lot of people!”
- If a friend has been the victim of a crime or abuse, you may have to make the decision to report it.
- Contact the appropriate authorities or professionals if your friend is seriously threatening to harm themselves or someone else.
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