When your friend isn't acting like herself it can be worrisome. Perhaps she’s isolating herself, has become irritable or is displaying another behavior that is unlike her. It’s not easy to confront a friend, but sometimes it is necessary to express concern and to offer support.
The Right Time
Pick a time and place where you will be able to talk with your friend face to face in private, without interruption or feeling rushed. It might be helpful to contact your friend in advance, let her know that you'd like to talk about something serious, and pick a place where you'll both feel comfortable talking. For instance, you might choose a quiet park near campus, a private trail that you can walk or a coffee shop. Turn off your cell phone and give your friend your full, undivided attention.
State Your Concerns
Tell your friend what you have observed and share your concerns without making an assumption as to why he is behaving the way he is, says Thrive Campus Health Services at the University of North Carolina in the article, “Concern About a Friend.” Be honest and direct. For instance, you might say, “I’m worried about how much time you are spending alone,” or “I’ve noticed that you seem very anxious lately.” Expressing a reason for your concern is more effective than asking someone if she is ok or if she’d like to talk, says Perfect Illusions: Eating Disorder and the Family in the article, “How to Help a Friend,” on the PBS.org website. For example, you might say, “I’m concerned because you haven’t been in class all week.”
It’s important that you listen to your friend’s response and accept what she is saying without judgment, says Thrive Campus Health Services. Encourage your friend to continue talking by nodding your head and offering short verbal prompts, such as “uh huh,” “I see,” and “ok.” On occasion, show your friend that you are listening by repeating what she said in your own words, suggests John M. Grohol, a psychologist and author of “Become a Better Listener: Active Listening” on the Psych Central website. For instance, you might start with, “If I understand correctly…” It's important to communicate that you understand what she is saying.
Let your friend know that you care about him and would like to help. If he is facing a serious issue, such as drug or alcohol problems, an eating disorder or is thinking of harming himself, encourage him to seek professional help. Offer him hope by letting him know that things can get better. It’s also possible that your friend may deny that he has an issue. If this is the case, reiterate your concerns again and the reasons behind them, says Perfect Illusions: Eating Disorder and the Family. Let your friend know that you are there for him should he decide he needs help.
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