Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Anne L. Fritz for Life & Beauty Weekly


We’ve all been there: A friend calls crying because she’s going through a tough time at work, at home or in her personal life. You want to comfort her, but for most of us, the first impulse is to give advice.

“Giving advice helps us to feel important, needed and valued in our friendships,” says Kimberly Moffit, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and relationship expert featured in FLARE magazine, FASHION, The Globe and Mail, Slice Network, Cosmopolitan TV and CBC Television. “We want our friends to know we have gone through (or know someone who has gone through) a similar situation, and when a friend actually takes our advice it feels very validating.”

However, jumping in with suggestions isn’t always the best way to comfort someone, because it can sometimes backfire. “If a friend takes our advice and it doesn’t work for her, she may end up feeling resentful or angry,” Moffit says.

Talk It Out
Instead, of doling out advice, Moffit recommends asking questions. “Great questions can help your friend mentally sort through the issue and eventually come to a solution on her own,” she says. “If your friend has had a breakup, has been fired or needs sympathy, don’t be afraid to have an ice-cream party or girls’ night in. This enables you to be a supportive and empathetic friend without telling them what to do.”

And, if your friend isn’t talking about the problem, Moffit suggests gently asking her if something is wrong. “If she doesn’t respond, let her know that you’re always willing to talk should she be going through a tough time. When your friend is ready, she will come to you.”

Later, after you’ve heard your friend out, try these strategies for providing comfort during some of life’s most challenging situations:

1. Help a friend who lost her job.

First off, spend time with your friend to console her. This may involve a girls’ night in or sob-fest to help her offload her worries. Your friend will need this in order to know her friends are there to support her.

“Tell her about the great qualities she has as a friend: Is she responsible, funny, care-free, gorgeous? She needs to hear this from you, because her self-esteem is likely to have been damaged from the blow of getting fired,” Moffit says. “Later on, when she’s ready, talk to her about what actually happened.” Was it a jealous co-worker, a misunderstanding or even something she may have provoked? Help her develop a plan of action for using the skills she has to acquire a new career that complements her set of strengths.

2. Help a friend with an illness.

We all want to share experiences, but whether it’s cancer, foot surgery or a root canal, you should repress the urge to immediately launch into a 10-year-old story about your own illness. Instead, put the focus on her.

“Illness can be a very difficult thing for friends to understand, especially when they haven’t gone through it themselves,” Moffit says. “Being a good friend involves letting her know you’re there for her no matter what: attending doctor’s appointments, talking to her about her fears and helping her run errands if need be. Do some research on the particular illness so that you can be knowledgeable (not preachy) when she needs to talk.”

3. Help a friend going through marriage troubles.

Be a sounding board, but never take sides, say experts, even if she asks point-blank whether she should leave her partner. If they patch things up, your pal could resent you later for what she perceives to be a criticism of someone she loves.

Instead, if she presses you for guidance, suggest a counsellor. Or suggest that she write a list of pros and cons to help weigh the issues — from deal breakers to minor annoyances. Then let her talk it through so she can come to a rational and organized decision on her own. “Tell her you are her friend and will support her in whatever decision she makes,” Moffit says.

4. Help a friend who lost a loved one.

A death usually strikes two blows: the initial trauma, then later as you start missing the person’s presence in your life. Your friend needs you during both these times.

“Physical and emotional contact are a great form of support for someone who is going through grief: This includes attending events like the funeral, wake, etcetera with your friend, but also stopping by her house, making phone calls and giving hugs,” says Moffit. “If your friend resists these things, respect her and understand that everyone is different and she’ll come to you when she’s ready to talk.”

It’s hard to know how a friend will react in any given situation, but most people simply need and want space to talk about their feelings. That, combined with your help, support and reassurance that you’ll be there no matter what, will not only help your friend feel better — it will strengthen your friendship in the end.

Anne L. Fritz
is the former style director for
Life & Style and has been on staff at
Woman’s Day and
Working Mother. She has contributed to
Marie Claire, Glamour, Prevention and many websites, including
Everyday Health, About and Life & Beauty Weekly
. Fritz is also the founder of The Jet Set Girls
, a website about girls’ getaways. 

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