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How to Be a Supportive Friend

Tips on how to be a supportive friend and why it’s important for everyone to have a circle of people they can count on in life.

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Life is better when you surround yourself with a circle of true friends. These people will be with you during the good times and when things are hard. Part of life and being human is enjoying the social company of others, and having supportive friends will help you live longer and feel more fulfilled. If you’re trying to figure out how to be a supportive friend to others in your life, we’ve got some tips for you! And if you’re searching for people to be more supportive of you, take inventory of the relationships in your life. Make new friendships and nurture them. Bonds take time, but there’s no better time to start building than now. 

Planning a Fun Day Out With Your Close Friends

One of the best ways to be a supportive friend is to give your time. Quality time is also essential when it comes to building connections with new friends or reinforcing an already strong relationship. Pick up a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition to unlock dozens of unique and memorable activities. Set a day and time to hang out, and then allow yourselves to be surprised when you scratch off the designated event in the book. It’s the perfect way to learn more about each other while having an absolute blast. 

Benefits of a Good Friendship

There are countless reasons why it’s important to maintain your relationships. We will cover how to be a supportive friend, but first, let’s do a quick review of a few of the biggest benefits of having real friends. 

Invaluable Support

Everyone will face some tough times in life. From the loss of family members and illnesses to financial hard times, your friends will be there to support you through difficult times. It’s good to have someone to talk to when faced with challenges. Your friends will prop you up and ensure you feel love and support.

On the other hand, your best friends will also be there to cheer you on when things are going well in life. A friend can act as a hype person and celebrate your wins. Good friends can be there to give advice, challenge you, and share things that can make life a little easier and better. They are your chosen family and provide a support system you can count on through all life’s twists and turns. 

Less Stress in Your Life and More Happiness

Studies have shown that people who spend time with their close friends can handle stress better. People with a good network can talk through their struggles instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, or other negative coping mechanisms. Socializing increases a hormone that decreases anxiety. Therefore, friendship is an essential part of protecting our mental health. 

Laughter is one of the best medicines for any hard times. Spending time with people you love and enjoy will lower your stress levels and boost your endorphins. Make memories, have fun experiences together, and enjoy the boost of happiness from being around others you enjoy.

Easier Aging Process

Having a close group of friends can make the aging process easier. Physical benefits include a strengthened immune system, better brain functions, and longer life expectancy. An Australian study showed that people with more friends outlived those with fewer friends by 22%. Your friends will help alleviate loneliness as you age, so having people in your corner is beneficial. 

As families grow up and move on, your friends will be the people who you can spend time and experience new things with. It’s good to have others going through similar periods of their life alongside you. 

Improves Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

True friends accept you for who you are, and that can be extremely helpful for your self-esteem. You’ll get an outside perspective from your friends and honest feedback in moments when you need it most. It will help your decision-making, as well. Having a group of friends will increase your sense of belonging and purpose. 

Connection and closeness between friends boost self-esteem and promote feelings of safety and comfort. Surround yourself with people who cheer you on and build you up. Positive affirmations from others can greatly impact how you feel about yourself and how you approach challenges in your life.

How to Be a Supportive Friend

There’s always room for improvement in relationships, so if you’ve been striving to be a more supportive friend, let these nine tips guide you. Being a better friend in your circle might be as easy as making one small change or opening up a bit more than you have in the past. Improve those relationships so that they last.

Show up.

Real friends make sure they are there for each other whenever it’s needed. Through good times and rough times, you want the people you care about the most to know you are a strong support system for them and will show up. Sometimes, that means nothing more than a hug or just sitting in the same room. If your friends can count on you to show up when they need you, it’s a sign that you’re a supportive friend.

Be a good listener.

Listening is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon always. Many people think all you need to do is remain quiet while someone else is talking, but active listening is so much more than that. Hear what your friend is saying to you and then ask questions to help them explore their feelings. Empathize with them and try to understand their perspective and feelings. This is a great way to offer your support.

When people need support and a sympathetic ear, you might need to pull out some conversation starters to get the words flowing. Sometimes, your friends may need to just talk for a while and work out their feelings and thoughts. If you can listen and ask questions, it will help them organize their thoughts. Focus on the conversation and avoid any distractions. Don’t pick up your phone or look around. Make eye contact and really stay present when you’re listening. Practice makes perfect, so just be aware of how you listen to others and what you need to work on.

Validate their feelings.

No matter how your friend feels, you need to give them validation for their feelings. This can be hard if you disagree about something, but working to see their point of view will help you understand where they are coming from. Then you can be as supportive as possible. If there were issues between you, always make sure to apologize. If you’re just there to support, make sure your friend knows that they are in a safe place to share their feelings openly. 

By validating feelings in a conversation, you’re helping foster trust in your relationship. People will know that you not only hear them and understand their feelings, but you also accept them. You don’t have to agree with people. But work on accepting where they’re coming from and their thoughts and feelings.

Gather the facts.

If a friend is going through something challenging, sit down with them and ask specific questions. Try to gather as much information as possible before you open your mouth and give your advice or opinions. You must understand the situation and try to put the pieces together. Emotions can be heightened, and a supportive friend’s role is to help foster understanding. When you ask questions, it helps get the wheels turning and helps a person process. You’ll have an easier time learning what your friends need and how you can help.

Stay in touch.

Friendships evolve over time, and people can find themselves in new geographical locations. People might move to be with a romantic partner or move for a new career. You can still be a supportive friend even if you aren’t able to do in-person hangouts often. Every bit counts, whether you send a card in the mail, check in with a phone call or text, or plan an annual trip together for some quality time.

When friends share their lives or update their statuses on social media, that certainly helps you stay engaged, but don’t rely on social media alone. Accessibility is so much easier with technology. Schedule FaceTime or Zoom chats where you can see each others’ faces while you catch up. Make it part of your common routine and stick with it. While it can be challenging, it really pays off to keep those friendships alive.

Avoid comparisons.

Humans all react to life’s events in their own ways. What one person feels might be very different from the next, so try and avoid comparing situations that aren’t closely aligned. If you respond to the struggles of a close friend with your own story, it can come across as a “one-upping” situation. Keep the focus and attention on the issue at hand. 

This is also important to remember when looking at your relationships. You might have a lot of history with one person and have a newer friendship with someone else. Don’t compare those two relationships. Instead, you should appreciate each unique relationship and what it adds to your life. Being a supportive friend means being grateful for them and showing gratitude in any way possible. Avoid comparisons and enjoy the beauty of each unique interaction and friendship. 

Hug one another.

One of the best ways to quickly support a good friend is with a hug. It’s such a simple gesture but so beneficial. Hugs decrease your release of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Some studies show that hugs reduce your blood pressure and heart rate when you’re dealing with stressful situations. Sharing that simple, physical connection is a good way to show your love and support for your friend. 

In addition to being a lovely show of support for your friends, hugging can be so beneficial for you, too. Science has proven that hugs reduce depression and balance the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy. 

Share your feelings.

True friendship involves an even exchange of information and support. Everyone faces unique challenges, but you want your friends to show up for you just like you would show up for them. A big part of that includes being open and vulnerable with each other. Share your feelings with your friends. Tell them when you’re struggling with something or celebrating something. By inviting them in, you’re building that foundation, which can help encourage them to open up more with you.

Know when to recommend professionals.

There are so many things that your friends can help get you through, but friends can’t fix everything for you. You shouldn’t feel responsible for fixing all the issues that the people in your life face. Be supportive and be there to help them, but be careful not to take it all on yourself. Your own mental health needs to be strong so that you can give support to your friends.

For trauma and intense situations, you can help your friends by encouraging them to seek out a mental health professional. Therapists are professionally trained to work with people and give them the tools they need to get through their issues. Supportive friends aren’t afraid to recommend things that might be uncomfortable if they have their friends’ best interests in mind. If you’re talking to your friends and you feel like they need additional help from professionals, help them get in touch with someone. Encourage them; let them know you will be there and that you support these decisions. Some people feel ashamed of having to see a therapist, but you can help them realize that there is no shame. 

Final Thoughts on Being a Supportive Friend

The bottom line is that being a good friend and having friends who love and support you will improve your overall well-being. Use our tips on how to be a supportive friend and make sure you’re checking in with yourself frequently to ensure that you’re offering love and support to your friends. You’ll lose friends over time if you only receive and never give. Circle back to this article and remind yourself of what you should do to protect your closest friendships.

Do you have any tips on being a supportive friend? Let us know in the comments below!

We know it can be hard to keep your friends as an adult, but don’t despair. Check out “Keys to Maintaining Adult Friendships” for a little help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of a toxic friendship?

Toxic friendships might involve manipulation, constant criticism, or a one-sided relationship. Consider how to be a supportive friend and search for those qualities in others for a healthier bond.

How can I be a more supportive friend?

If you’re looking for ways to be a more supportive friend, the first thing to do is work on active listening skills. You’ll learn other ways your friends need you by listening to them and showing up.

Why is it essential to have supportive friends?

Supportive friends listen and provide comfort when you’re going through hard times. Having a circle of supportive people in your life improves your overall health and well-being.

How can I help a co-worker going through a hard time?

Even if you aren’t close with your co-worker, you can be supportive by offering to listen to them, run an errand for them, or just be available for things they might need while healing.

What activities can I do to grow closer to my friends?

Quality time is the best way to develop a stronger bond with friends. Grab a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition, which has dozens of fun things to get out and do with your friends.

How can I get a friend out when they are struggling?

Consider fun activities that get your loved one some fresh air and laughter. Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition has great ideas and options to do with your good friends.

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