We all have that one person in our lives who is our pillar of strength. You know the one – a friend, a relative, or even a co-worker who is confident, perpetually happy, highly successful, caring, generous, and fun. Most of all, they are your rock in times of need. On the surface, it seems that their life is perfect, and it’s unlikely that others realize that things aren’t always rainbows and butterflies in their world. One of the most challenging times in a relationship comes when you realize that such a strong person in your life – your hero – is going through an emotional storm. This realization can leave you feeling like you’re the one who is lost at sea.
Your hero may not come right out and tell you or show any obvious signs of a crisis. But you might notice a change in their habits – your conversations together have become shorter and feel forced, you hear from them less, or they stop communicating altogether. Other signs that signal tough times are when they start to participate less and less in day-to-day interactions. For instance, they may begin to avoid social events like lunch meetups, church, or reunions. When you do see them, you may notice that they are giving less attention to their appearance.
It can be hard to stand by and watch the person you admire so much hurting. Facing such a situation, you might wish you had an instruction book on helping your hero through a tough time. You wonder if you are doing too little or too much, what you should ask or say, or if you should say anything at all. You ask yourself, Do they want my advice? They’ve always been the one to give advice to me. How on earth could I possibly help them?
Here are 5 ways to help your hero through a tough time.
1. Accept that you may not be able to fix the problem. Heroes tend to try to navigate rough waters on their own; plus, even though you want to help, your hero may not need it. If they want some space, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be left alone. Do make sure they know that you genuinely care for their welfare.
2. Let your hero know that you are there for them. It’s always uncomfortable to feel helpless to solve a problem, but don’t struggle to offer unnecessary advice and suggestions. Simply let them know you’re there if they needs you. If they want to talk, offer a shoulder to lean on. Ask if you can run errands, fix a meal, or help with housework.
3. Listen intently and don’t judge. When they do open up to you, don’t be tempted to analyze the circumstances and offer advice. Even though your intentions may be pure, your unsolicited advice and opinions could do more harm than good. Just listen. What they really needs is someone to lend a compassionate ear without judgment when the time is right.
4. Acknowledge their pain. Don’t point out the reasons they should be thankful, and definitely avoid saying, “Things could be much worse,” or “This could be a blessing in disguise.” Be emphatic and acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t know all the details. Sincere validation is the simplest and best approach.
5. Treat them the same as you always have. Although you might be afraid to say the wrong thing, remember that treating your hero as a fragile being can make them feel less confident. Keep having the same kinds of conversations and interactions as you have in the past, and include them in simple activities; this can effectively relieve tension for both of you. Invite them to join you for a walk, an exercise class, yoga, or meditation. And be sure to find things to laugh about when you spend time together.
Every person is unique, with a different set of circumstances. When your hero is struggling, you may feel the urge to go the extra mile to please them – don’t. Simple acts of kindness and demonstrations of your concern will go a lot farther than you think. And even if they don’t express their appreciation in the moment, continue to be there for them. Sometimes tough times reveal which friends are unconditional and, in the end, such a realization can identify brand new heroes.