Friendship is an important element in life to find time for. It can be sustaining in challenging times and can be grounding and sustaining, no matter what.
And friendship is a give-and-take. Sometimes you need a friend – and other times, your friendship may be a lifeline for someone important in your life.
So today I want to share some life-tested tips to help you find time to support your friends when they need it — without losing your own footing in the process.
That’s a vital key to any friendship — one that I can’t emphasize enough. You can only offer what you have. So if you deplete yourself in the process of supporting someone else, you will soon have nothing left to give.
Friendship Tips for Tough Times
1. Schedule time regularly for contact with friends.
When you consistently schedule time with good friends, in person or on the phone, you benefit in two ways.
- You maintain and enrich friendships that are important in your life.
- The time you have scheduled for regular contact with your friends becomes time available to support your friends when they most need it. The time allotted remains the same; only your use of it changes when your friends need help rather than companionship.
2. Volunteer only if you can follow through on your time commitments.
When first hearing about a friend’s misfortune, honor your friend with your undivided attention and empathy. In this way, you address their needs in the moment without unthinkingly promising more than you can deliver. Then volunteer your support only if you can realistically follow through.
3. Know your values.
Has a friend in crisis ever made a request for help that is not consistent with your personal values? If, as suggested, you have first offered empathy without committing to specific actions, you have breathing room to prepare your response. By saying no without criticism or disapproval, you take care of yourself without embarrassing your friend. For example, if a friend asks you to monitor her teenager, whom you know often throws parties without parental consent, you can just respond respectfully, saying, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
4. Always ask what you can do for your friend that will be the biggest help.
There are two responses to a friend in crisis that are not helpful.
- The first is to assume you know what your friend needs and then tell them what you’re going to do to help.
- The second is to say something like, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you!” In this instance, your friend might ask for something outside of your ability or comfort zone. Or, self-consciously, your friend may hold back from asking you to do anything specific.
Always attempt to find two concrete tasks that truly will help your friend in crisis. Then commit only to those specific tasks that align with your time constraints and comfort level.
5. The more intensely you identify with a friend’s problems, the more important it becomes to address your own feelings of discomfort independently.
It is, of course, hard to see a friend in distress. If your friend’s predicament is particularly difficult for you to witness, you may feel driven to try to fix it yourself. A “rush to rescue,” however, may actually interfere with resolution. Also, be on the lookout for temptations to pull away from a friend in trouble or minimize their problems. Work to accept your friend’s situation, and grow in the process.
Using your time thoughtfully in response to your friend’s misfortune will help both of you evolve and strengthen the friendship you share.