How to Be Emotionally Supportive

Support comes in many forms.

You might offer physical support to someone having trouble standing or walking, or financial support to a loved one in a tight spot.

Other kinds of support are important, too. People in your life like family members, friends, and even close co-workers, can help lift you up emotionally by offering social and emotional support.

What it is
People show emotional support for others by offering genuine encouragement, reassurance, and compassion. This might include things like verbal expressions of sympathy or physical gestures of affection.

Emotional support can come from other sources, too — religious or spiritual sources, community activities, or even your pets. Whatever form it takes, this support can improve anyone’s outlook and general wellness.

Some people have a knack for being emotionally supportive, but this skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

You can develop these skills, though, with a little practice. Keep reading for 13 tips on providing quality emotional support to anyone in your life.

When you want to provide emotional support to someone you care about, asking a few questions is a great place to start.

“How can I support you?” can sometimes work, but it’s not always the best approach.

While good intentions lie behind questions like these, they sometimes fail to have the impact you desire.

People don’t always know what they want or need, especially in the middle of a difficult situation. So, this question can be so broad it leaves someone unsure how to reply.

Instead, try asking questions tailored to a situation or the person’s state of mind, such as:

“You seem a little upset today. Would you like to talk about it?”
“I know your boss was giving you a tough time. How have you been holding up?”
If you know someone has faced some challenges and aren’t sure how to open a conversation, try starting with some general questions, such as, “What’s been happening in your life lately?”

… and listen
It’s not enough to simply ask questions. Listening actively, or empathically, is another important part of providing emotional support.

When you really listen to someone, you give them your full attention. Show interest in their words by:

displaying open body language, like turning your body toward them, relaxing your face, or keeping your arms and legs uncrossed

  • avoiding distractions, like playing with your phone or thinking about other things you need to do
  • nodding along with their words or making noises of agreement instead of interrupting
  • asking for clarification when you don’t understand something
  • summarizing what they’ve said to show you have a good grasp of the situation
  • Using good listening skills shows others you care about what they’re going through. For someone
  • who’s struggling, knowing that someone else has heard their pain can make a big difference.

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