It’s the coldest week of winter, and so many of us seem to be going through some sort of crisis. I am prompted to write post after a series of conversations I had last night (some positive, some negative) regarding support and burnout. This list is, in no way, comprehensive. Nor is it targeted at a particular person or set of people. Rather, it is based off a multitude of personal experiences in which I have been both a person in crisis and a friend to a person in crisis. I drafted this up quickly, and comments // critiques // additions // rebuttals would be much appreciated.
- Reach out and check in.
- Recognize that your interactions with your friend is crisis has the potential to hold a lot of weight. Your friend might not respond as though your conversation or your “check in” or even your friendship carries any meaning, however it often does.
- Be compassionate and authentic. Tone counts, and a lot. Hearing love in a friend’s voice is often an ultimate soothing factor.
- Practice forgiveness. A person in crisis is often running on adrenaline in order to get by, and may therefore do or say things that are fucked up and later regret.
- Whenever possible, have face-to-face conversations. If you cannot talk in person, try to avoid text messaging or emails. Seeing a friend’s concerned expression and eye contact helps.
- Remember that the night time is often the worst.
- Be an active listener. Active listening means making a conscious effort to hear and understand what the other party is saying. It means listening without judgment or interjection. Re-state, paraphrase, or ask questions about your friend’s experience. Avoid changing the topic to make the conversation all about you.
- Communicate your limits, triggers, and boundaries. A crisis is a highly stressful time for everybody, and it’s important for the listener to take care of him / her / their self. Be honest if you need to step away, or if you cannot talk about a particular topic. Check in with yourself and make sure that you are enacting self-care.
- Encourage basic functioning. Encourage your friend to take a walk, eat meals, drink water, get dressed, shower, etc.
- Introduce humor and healthy distractions, when appropriate.
- Wait to communicate your boundaries. If your friend’s crisis is becoming much or too triggering, let your friend know this immediately. Be aware that your friend might become very upset by this knowledge, and that it might create short term conflict. However, honestly usually hurts less than making false promises about what you can and cannot give.
- Encourage substance use or other reckless behavior. Similarly, avoid talking to your friend while either of you are under the influence.
- Instigate an argument, even if your friend picks a fight with you. If you need to call your friend out for inappropriate or boundary crossing behavior, be firm but also compassion. Avoid name calling, teasing, and highly personal accusations at all costs. Be aware that yelling at a person in crisis will often make them shut down.
- Spill personal secrets or triangulate. Avoid gossiping about your friend’s crisis at all costs.
- Pretend that you can understand your friends experience. You probably do not, and saying that you get what they are saying. Pretending that you do can feel disingenuous and bring false hope. Instead of saying “I understand,” try “I empathize.”
- Be pushy. Rather than demand that your friend talk about what’s going on or follow through on a specific course of action, allow them to open up when they feel ready and make the choices that they feel work best for them.