10 Tips for Listening to a Friend in Need

One of the best things you can do for a friend in need, is just to be there for them when they want to talk.

People are often reluctant to talk about the issues they are facing – so it can be a big deal when they decide to spill. 

Here's some tips for how you can support them as best you can.

1. Try to start a conversation

You probably know your friends well and might be able to tell when something is bothering them. If you think this is the case, check in on them and ask if there is anything they want to talk about.

This can ease the pressure of them bringing it up out of the blue.

2. Remember to be patient

Your friend might not want to talk, or may need some time before they are ready.

Try to strike a balance between not pressuring them, but also letting them know that you care and you are there for them should they need to speak to anyone. 

3. Let them speak

If your friend opens up, show them that you are listening and being supportive by hearing them out fully.

Resist any urge you have to interrupt while they are speaking so you can hear and understand everything they have to say.

4. Be considerate and open-minded about what they say

Jumping to conclusions or being judgemental won't help either of you. 

5. 'Listen' to their body language

Non-verbal cues such as facial expression or tone of voice can tell you a lot, it may tell you more than what your friend is saying.

If you notice your friend doesn't look comfortable or they are becoming upset, do your best to support them and put them at ease.

6. Ask questions

Showing your friend that you are interested in what they are saying and that you want to understand it more will help validate their feelings and encourage them to share their concerns.

It will also help you to clarify and understand what you're being told. 

7. Give your advice if they ask

If they don't ask for your advice, respect that and continue to listen and support them.

However, they may value your opinion and it may be why they opened up to you. If they want your thoughts, be honest with them while being sensitive to their feelings.

8. Remember that you're not an expert 

You won't have all the answers.

Unless your friend is speaking to you because you are an authority on something or you have specific expertise, recognise that for advice they may have to look for other, credible sources or speak to a professional.

9. Refer them on

Even if you don't know what to say, you can help them find someone or somewhere that will.

Help your friend find good information, resources or contact details for support services that could help.

10. Look after yourself

Being there for someone else can be tough and it's important you take care of your own mental and emotional wellbeing.

Check out our 'Who to Contact for Mental Health Support' article for a wide range of organisations that you can speak to for emotional support.