How to tell your friend what you need...the art of teaching people how to help you

Telling someone who loves you and who is trying to help you but isn't really helping what you actually need...well, it's downright hard. 

Having the confidence to say what you need to your friends or family is perhaps one of the most challenging things that we do. 

Because we don’t want to drive them away. We know they have our best interests at heart but...

When you feel funky or overwhelmed and you think you're going to burst into tears, this is when we all need someone who cares to step in...but in the right way.

When you spiral into negative thought patterns

It’s the times when you can’t help yourself.   The negative thoughts take over and bring you down, down to the deep dark hole. 

You say negative things like: 

What's wrong with me?

I hate my life

Why is this happening to me?

I should have...

I can't...

Everybody else does this, why can't I?


Now we're in the hole and we don't know how to get out of the spiral.  

Getting support from your friends and family 

Your friend comes or calls and she's trying to help, saying things like...

"It's really not that bad"

"You know, you just need to change your attitude"

"You're just saying negative things about yourself and you know that's not true"

Wait. Stop. Not helpful.

What’s really going on is that friend or family member doesn't want you to feel sad or hurt so they try to fix it. 

The reality is that you DO feel that way and chances are, their attempts to cheer you up just don't work.

Having difficult conversations with loved ones

This is when you have to say the hard stuff…

Something like

"This isn't helping me"

If you hear your best friend, your spouse, your sister, someone you trust say, 

“Well, if you just…” 

Or they try to "fix" the problem, then it makes you feel worse. 

If someone you trust doesn't get where you are, if they don’t really understand how low you feel, no matter what, in some ways, it makes it all worse. 

Sometimes your friend or loved one just needs to be WITH you. In the funkiness, in the black hole. 

We just need someone to “get how miserable” we are. Take a moment to think of the last time this happened to you. And I bet it did. 

You were probably looking for understanding, empathy, and some compassion? 


What we don't need is:

Someone to fix it. Because they can't. 

Sometimes we have to go through the feelings. 

When you're down, you're down.

Your friend can help you get back out of the hole if they know what you need and want. 

So tell them. 

Put on your big girl panties and tell them what you need. 

Tell them what to STOP doing and then tell them what to START doing

You can respectfully say,

It doesn't help me when you tell me what to do or try to fix it

What would help me is...

Give me a hug 


Don’t judge 

Don’t tell me I shouldn’t feel that way

Let me know you get it, you understand

Don’t tell me what you think I should do unless I ask

Remind me that I can get through anything 

If you see me overwhelmed, do something that will help me without my asking (a task that I just can't get to, something that is needed but I don't necessarily have to do)

When you see me down or negative, say something like...that sucks or that's really hard, in other words, just be with me in the pain of it all for a few minutes. 

Then...remind me…that I've done hard stuff before and I can get through this. 


Ask me, 

What do you need right now? 

Is there anything I can do? 

What would make you feel better? 

This is how you tell the people who want to comfort you what you need instead of what they think you need. 

I suggest having this conversation before you’re in the dark hole. 

So that they know for the future. 

Now it's your turn to tell your friends and family what you need

Have that conversation with someone who loves you, who you know will want to comfort you. Teach them how to treat you. 

And ask them, too, what would help them when they’re down. 

This, my friend, is how we educate people on how we want to be treated. 

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