The Right Words for the Toughest Situations
Certain situations challenge even the strongest bond. Here's what to say when the going gets tough with a friend.
... Is Locked in a No-Win SituationYour friend is stuck in a job she hates, and youve patiently listened to her vent for weeks. How can you help her move on?
Wise Words: Validate your friends feelings, but let her know that while wallowing is OK for the short-term, she needs a plan to get out of her situation, says Becky Whetstone, Ph.D., a San Antonio-based counselor. Offer to scour jobs on the Internet with her, or to speak with friends about leads. Help her transfer that energy into something she enjoys, suggests Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a relationship expert at the University of Michigan.
... Loses a Loved OneConsoling a friend who has suffered the loss of a family member is never easy. Keep in mind that while your words matter, your actions count even more.
Wise Words: Tell your friend, Im so sorry for your loss, and Im here for you if you need me, says Whetstone. Follow through and call her at least once a week. If you bring her food, offer to eat with her, and invite her on outings, even if shes not up for it immediately, says Whetstone. And dont forget the little things: Picking up her mail, walking her terrier or mowing the lawn can be more helpful than anything you say. Remember to check in over the long haul she may need your comfort and companionship for months to come.
... Bails on You RepeatedlyShe abruptly canceled your movie date last week and left you flying solo for your pairs pedicure. Now, two hours before your dinner date, your friend calls off plans again. What gives?
Wise Words: Before you write her off, say gently, This has happened a few times. Is everything OK with you? Did I say or do anything to upset you? Presenting options gives her an opening for discussion, says Orbuch. She may be upset and not know how to tell you, so shes showing you. If she says everything is fine but keeps standing you up, you may be better off making plans with someone who keeps them.
... Asks for a LoanYour friend wants to borrow money from you, but your philosophy has always been, Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Wise Words: All friendships have boundaries, says Orbuch.If youre not comfortable lending your hard-earned cash, say, Im always available to talk to you when youre in a crisis, or give you dinner or my fold-out couch to sleep on, but I cannot loan money to friends. Make it general, rather than personal, and she will be less likely to get defensive or angry. Also, if you cant afford to lose it, dont loan it, says Whetstone. But, she adds, if your friend is truly in a bind and you can help her, consider the money a gift rather than a loan. Then, if you never get your money back, you wont be bubbling over with resentment.