How many times have you shared a painful experience or emotion with another, and felt completely frustrated with their lack of support? In fact, you left the conversation feeling more alone than ever?
An old saying, “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk,” warns us not to look for understanding from those who are unable to give it.
So, who are the best people to turn to for emotional support? Although many think their lover or spouse should provide all the care they need, it’s an impossible task. Others turn to their family members whose own wounds may block them from providing the care we’re looking for.
These three patterns will help you determine which people in your life are most likely to provide loving support when you’re hurting.
Pattern 1. “Here’s my solution,” rather than “Here’s how to access wise guidance.”
- A less helpful friend suggests immediate solutions that attempt to control the situation. Because he’s uneasy with your discomfort, his goal is to fix it right now. Such advice can make the situation worse rather than better.
- A helpful friend offers ideas and tools that bring you peace of mind and intuitive guidance. He’ll remind you that a serene state of mind will result in the best actions.
Pattern 2. “It’s all about me,” rather than “It’s all about you.”
- A less helpful friend responds by sharing her own troubles. If she’s not able to focus on your concerns, then she may not be truly interested in your well being.
- A helpful friend listens, carefully summarizes your thoughts and feelings, and asks questions to understand you. If this friend shares her own story, it’s only offered to give you hope; then she returns the focus to you.
Pattern 3. “Let’s focus on the problem,” rather than “Let’s find a place of peace.”
- A less helpful friend wants to hear the lurid details. She commiserates about how terrible your situation is and helps you justify your pain. Such friends end up reinforcing your resentments, fears, and worries.
- A helpful friend refuses to escalate your fears by “awfulizing” events. She might suggest that you accept the situation as it is for now, and work toward a peaceful state of mind. Finally, she reassures you that this situation will find resolution in the best way for all, and that it may take time.
- The Litmus Test: Consider how you feel after talking to the person. If you feel more agitation than hope, try sharing your vulnerabilities with someone else.
The most helpful people probably won’t come from your family. Your family members may unwittingly reinforce the very same patterns you’re trying to overcome. Give yourself some time to heal before you share deeply with family members.
Choose a confidant who holds no sexual attraction for you. A romantic partner hates to see you suffer, and may try to fix your problem for you. Or, if your partner struggles with security or power, their responses may be damaging rather than helpful.
Gigi Langer holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She’s a sought-after speaker and retreat leader who has helped thousands improve their lives at work and at home. Order her award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now at Amazon or get 20% off with promo code 20lessnow here.