How to Provide Emotional Support: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Provide Emotional Support: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Provide Emotional Support: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

Video: How to Provide Emotional Support: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

Video: How to Provide Emotional Support: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
Video: Chris S. "The Frontier of Emotional Sobriety" - AA Speaker - 12-Step Recovery 2023, October

You may have a tendency to help others who are in trouble. But if you're not careful, you can say or do something that can make your friend feel like she's been dropped. With this in mind, it will be helpful for you to learn effective techniques to use when you offer emotional support to others.


Part 1 of 3: Active Listening

Give Emotional Support Step 1
Give Emotional Support Step 1

Step 1. Speak in a closed area

It's very important that you make sure that the person who needs your support is comfortable discussing the problem with you. An empty room (no one else) is a good choice, if there is one. However, an empty corner of the room is enough if there is no empty space that can be used. Be sure to speak in a low voice, especially if you are in a room with several other people who may be passing by and overhearing you.

  • As much as possible reduce the things that can interfere with the conversation. Choose a quiet area without interference from television, radio, or other electronic devices. Also, make sure to avoid doing other things like typing messages or looking at your wallet while your friend is talking.
  • Another alternative to sitting in an enclosed area is to “walk around and talk.” Instead of just sitting in one place, you and your friends can go for a leisurely stroll and talk. This will make your friend feel more comfortable discussing the problem.
  • Active listening can also be done over the telephone line. However, it is important to do so when there are not so many distractions.
Give Emotional Support Step 2
Give Emotional Support Step 2

Step 2. Ask

You can ask your friend what happened and how he felt. The key here is to reassure him that you are there to listen to him. It's important to make your friend feel that you're genuinely interested in what she has to say, and that you really want to support her.

  • Use open-ended questions to help direct the conversation and create discussion. A good open-ended question can let you see at a glance what your friend is thinking.
  • Your questions should start with words like “how” and “why.” Ask questions that will spark discussion instead of one-word answers.
  • Some examples of open-ended questions are: “What happened?” "What are you going to do next?" "How did you feel after that?"
Give Emotional Support Step 3
Give Emotional Support Step 3

Step 3. Listen to the answers from your friends

Watch him when he talks to you and give him your full attention. He will feel more appreciated if you give him your full attention.

  • It's important to make eye contact so your friend knows you're listening. However, make sure you don't make eye contact too much. Be careful that you don't just stare at him all the time.
  • Use open body language and nonverbal signals to show him that you are listening. Try to nod occasionally and smile when necessary. Also, make sure you don't fold your arms as this is a defensive gesture and your friend may not respond well to the posture.
Give Emotional Support Step 4
Give Emotional Support Step 4

Step 4. Recite what your friend previously said

Showing empathy is a key component of helping someone make him or her feel supported. To reflect more empathetic feelings, it's important that you clearly understand what the person is trying to communicate. Acknowledging and reflecting back on him what he just said is a very good way to make sure that you understand. He will also feel more supported and more understood.

  • Don't be like a robot who can only repeat what your friend said in the exact same sentence as he said before. Repeat with different words but still referring to the same meaning, so the conversation flows more. Just make sure that when you repeat what your friend said, you use the words. You can say something like “I think you said…” or “What I heard was…” or something similar. This will help him to know that you are really listening.
  • Don't interrupt your friend while he or she is talking. Show support by giving him the opportunity to express what he's thinking and feeling without interruption. You can reflect back on what he's saying only when there's a natural pause in the conversation, or when it's clear he's waiting for your feedback.
  • This is not the time to criticize or criticize your friend. Listening and showing empathy doesn't mean you have to agree with what your friend has to say; but rather to show that you care about him and what he's going through. Avoid saying "I told you before it would be like this," "It's not that big of a deal," "It couldn't be that bad," "You're overreacting" or other critical and dismissive comments. Your job at times like these is to show enough support and empathy.

Part 2 of 3: Confirming Emotions

Give Emotional Support Step 5
Give Emotional Support Step 5

Step 1. Estimate how your friend is feeling

Try to find out how your friend is feeling while you are talking to him or her. Some people find it difficult to label their emotions or may even try to cover up their feelings. This is often the case when others have previously criticized their sensitive emotional feelings. Others may feel confused about what they are feeling. For example, a person may confuse feelings of frustration with anger, or feelings of joy with excitement. Helping a person to identify what he is really feeling is the first step in checking his emotions.

  • Don't tell your friend how she feels. Better, give some advice. You can say “You seem very disappointed” or “You seem very upset.”
  • Observe your friend's body language and facial expressions when he or she is talking. Also, his tone of voice may give you an idea of how he feels.
  • Remember, if your guess is wrong, he will correct you. Do not ignore the correction he gave. Accept that he is the only person who truly knows how he feels. Accepting his correction is also a confirmation of the emotions he feels.
Give Emotional Support Step 6
Give Emotional Support Step 6

Step 2. Focus on the process you understand your friend

That is, put aside all thoughts or preconceived notions about the situation. Stay by his side and pay attention to what he says. Your agenda is not to fix problems or find solutions. Instead, focus on giving him a safe space where he feels heard.

  • Avoid trying to give advice, unless asked. Trying to give advice will make your friend feel that you are criticizing and putting them down.
  • Never try to give him suggestions to erase his feelings. Remember, he has the right to feel what he feels. Showing emotional support means accepting her right to explore her emotions, whatever they may be.
Give Emotional Support Step 7
Give Emotional Support Step 7

Step 3. Reassure your friend that her feelings now are normal

It is important for your friend to feel safe in expressing her feelings. This is not the time to be critical of your friend and her situation. Your goal is to make him feel supported and understood. Short and simple statements are best. Here are some examples of confirmation statements:

  • "This is difficult."
  • "I'm sorry that this has happened to you."
  • "That seems to hurt you a lot."
  • "I see."
  • "That would also make me angry."
Give Emotional Support Step 8
Give Emotional Support Step 8

Step 4. Observe your own body language

Most forms of communication are nonverbal. That is, body language is as important as spoken language. Make sure your body language reflects that you are listening and showing empathy, not criticism or rejection.

  • Try to nod, smile, and make eye contact when you listen to your friend talk. Research shows that people who exhibit this kind of nonverbal behavior are often rated by observers as empathetic listeners.
  • Smiling is especially helpful because the human brain is programmed to recognize smiles. This means that your friend will feel supported, but that's not all. Both the giver and the recipient of the smile will often feel better faster.

Part 3 of 3: Showing Support

Give Emotional Support Step 9
Give Emotional Support Step 9

Step 1. Ask your friend what he wants to do

If he feels he needs more emotional support, this is likely to indicate that something in his life is out of balance. This is a good opportunity to help her explore what actions she can take to bring her emotional state back into balance.

  • Your friend may not be able to find a solution right away, and that's okay. Don't pressure him to make a decision right away. He may just need to be heard and accepted first.
  • Ask the type of question that reads “what-if”. This kind of question will help a person to seek and think about the next course of action, which may not have been considered before. Giving options through a question format won't sound too threatening, and your friend probably won't feel as though they're being asked to do something. You can take this approach to give him advice in a supportive manner without bringing him down.
  • Remember, you are not fixing problems for your friends. You only give him support in finding solutions to the problems he is going through.
  • For example, if your friend is struggling financially, you might ask, "What if you and your boss discussed getting a raise?" Maybe your nephew is feeling dizzy with work responsibilities and house problems. You might ask, “What if you planned a stress-free vacation with your family?” Any appropriate "what-if" questions will help.
Give Emotional Support Step 10
Give Emotional Support Step 10

Step 2. Identify an action

Your friend may not find a solution quickly, but it's important that you support her in taking small steps to resolve the problem. Identifying next steps is important, even if the problem is as minor as your friend agreeing to talk to you again the next day. People tend to feel more supported when they know they have reliable people in their lives, who will help them see the bigger picture.

  • Continue to support your friend in taking action until the problem is resolved. It may be a slow process, but he will appreciate your support.
  • When someone is grieving, there may not be any specific action steps that can be taken. Everyone grieves differently, and their grief can last a year or more. When you are supporting someone who is grieving, listening to the story they want to tell and accepting their feelings without playing down the loss is very important.
  • Sometimes action can mean seeking help from a mental health professional.
Give Emotional Support Step 11
Give Emotional Support Step 11

Step 3. Provide support in tangible ways

Sometimes it's easier to say things like "I'm here for you if you need me" or "Don't worry. It will all end” instead of doing something that could actually help. However, it's very important that you actually show real support rather than just uttering word of mouth. After taking the time to really listen to your friend, you'll probably have some ideas on specific things you can do to make them feel more supported. If you don't know what to do, here are some guidelines that can help:

  • Instead of saying “Everything will be fine”, you can do everything you can to make your friend's situation better. For example, you can help a sick friend find a good specialist or help him find suitable treatment options.
  • Apart from saying “I love you”, you can also do something that you know will be useful for your friend. For example, buying her a gift, spending more time with her, or taking her to a special place to reduce stress.
  • Instead of just saying “I'm here for you”, you can take your friend out to dinner or help with chores she needs to do to complete the necessary action steps.
Give Emotional Support Step 12
Give Emotional Support Step 12

Step 4. Ask your friend again

It's true that everyone has their own schedule and their lives can get hectic at times, but it's important that you take the time to help your friend. He may have received a lot of verbal support, but this deeper level of support would be much appreciated. Remember, small acts of kindness mean a lot and will be remembered forever.


  • Don't play down someone's problems. While it may seem that other people's problems are not that significant to you, if your friend is experiencing emotional stress then the situation may be very stressful indeed.
  • Avoid giving an opinion unless you are directly asked to give it. There will be an appropriate time and place to give unsolicited advice, especially if the situation is dangerous. However, if the situation only requires you to provide emotional support, it's best to avoid giving your opinion until your friend asks for it.
  • Remember, being supportive doesn't mean you approve of your friend's decisions. If you think the decision is detrimental or harmful, you don't need to agree to provide emotional support to your friend.
  • When you're looking for a solution, using the "what-if" type of question is a great way to suggest a more healthy, balanced solution, without appearing to put too much pressure on your friend.
  • Remember, you don't make decisions for your friends. Your job is to show support and help her make her own decisions.
  • Make sure you calm down. Before trying to provide support to others, make sure you are emotionally healthy yourself. It's not good for your friend – or you – if you get confused and panic when you try to support your friend.
  • Make sure you're committed to doing whatever it takes to help your friend. It's better for you to volunteer to do something you know you really can do, than to disappoint your friend by swallowing the promise yourself.
  • Stay focused on your friends. Be careful about sharing your own experiences when you are trying to give support to others. While sharing your experience can sometimes be effective, it can often backfire especially if your friend feels that you are trying to downplay their situation and feelings. So, it might be better for you to stay focused on the situation.
  • A hunch can be helpful when you're trying to understand your friend and show empathy. It's okay to stick to your gut when you're predicting someone's feelings or making suggestions. However, if your friend corrects you, accept the correction. Unconditional acceptance is a big part of emotional support.


  • If you want to show support when a crisis occurs, be sure to observe your surroundings and ensure everyone's safety. If medical assistance is needed, then make it a priority.
  • Research has shown that some physical touch is good for showing support. However, it is very important that you limit physical contact unless you know your friends well. A hug may be okay for a good friend, but a hug for someone you're just an acquaintance with might trigger a trauma-related response. So, make sure to limit physical touch and ask permission before embracing someone.