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Are you really there?

By Nabiha Ariff
Sticking by your friend at all times is what, we have all learnt, is essential in a friendship. Itís always easy to be the kind of friend who is there for the good times and the laughs and fun, but steps back when the going gets tough. Itís during these hard times that friends need each other most but this can, sometimes, weigh too heavily and scare friends away. It is in times of trouble that you realise how many friends you really have or in fact how good a friend you are.

If you donít want to be the kind of friend who lets others down, youíll need to become a really good listener at supporting your friends when they need you most. Supporting others doesnít take any special talents, so there is nothing to fret about.
On the contrary, you just need to let your natural patience and empathy shine through.
 
When friends need each other

There can be a great many incidents during the teenage years and afterwards as well where we realise and need friends leaning on each other. When your friends turn to you for support, it may be because you are one of the few persons who can truly understand what they are going through or most trustworthy among others. Many times your friends will need support when they face various kinds of issues. Some of these issues could be:

  • They have fought with their parents.

  • Their parents are fighting with each other.

  • Their parents have decided to divorce.

  • They are fighting with their girlfriend/boyfriend.

  • They have just ended a relationship.

  • They have not been accepted by the college or university of their choice.

  • They find out that a friend or family member is ill.

  • They find out that they are ill.

  • They have suffered a traumatic event.

  • A friend or family member has died.

Be there when needed
Often when friends are upset, they just want someone to lend an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on. One of the most important ways you can support your friend is to simply be there for them, they donít need specific advice or long lectures filled with i-told-u-soís, all they need is someone sitting beside them. Answer their calls, meet them when they ask you to or even suggest a sleepover so that you can spend time together. If you really need tips on how to respond in such a situation, try doing the following while you listen to your troubled friend:
- Ask gentle questions and find out, as much as you can, about the situation. Do not interrupt them when they talk.
- Repeat the story back to them to make sure you understand the relevant facts.
- Let them scream, cry or even throw dishes if necessary as long as they vent out their anger in any manner. Well as long as itís not all on you!
- Empathise with them.
- Do not throw in your own stories. You may see similarities, but your friend is not going to be in any mood to figure that out or talk about you.
- Offer advice only in an emergency otherwise wait until your friend asks for your opinion.
- One important thing to keep in mind is that your body language says a lot about how you feel. Either nod to show agreement and or give an encouraging smile.
- Try distracting your friends thoughts by coming up with a topic that interests them.
- Consider taking the friend for, a trip to the cinema or spending an afternoon shopping.
- You could even decide on taking a daytrip to some place close by where you know your friend would enjoy.

Know when to act

It is important to remember that while you can support your friends when they need you, you canít solve their problems entirely for them. Sometimes you will realise that your friends need more help or support than you alone can provide, and knowing when to ask for assistance is very important. Even if your friends have asked you to keep a secret, if you are uncomfortable with this and personally feel it would be risky keeping this secret you should immediately inform your friendís parents or guardians.
Supporting your friends when they need you is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life. Be yourself, be patient and then you will realise that supporting a friend in need makes you a good friend, indeed.
(nabiha@nation.lk)

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