There are a few people in my life who are amazing at making me feel better when I’m having a bad day. Then there are people who I know mean well but tend to do or say things which, unfortunately, do the opposite -- bring me down more, stress me out, or (and I think this is the worst) make me feel guilty for not feeling great. I think being able to cheer up a friend when she's having a bad day is one of the most important skills to have, so I’ve decided to try to get better at it.
To start, I asked a bunch of my friends to answer these two questions:
- When you’re having a bad day, what’s the last thing you want to hear?
- When you’re having a bad day, what’s something a friend can say to help you cheer up?
From their answers and my own not-so-humble opinions, here are my Do’s and Don’ts for how to be an awesome human if your friend is having a bad day:
- Listen. Just be there, in whatever way you can (in person, on the phone, by text) and let them air whatever is going on. Judgment and interruption-free.
- Send them something to laugh about. A silly photo of the two of you. A funny BuzzFeed article. A link to Speak LOL Cats. Funny Instagram photos. Humor can cure almost anything.
- Ask if you can help. You probably can’t but that’s not the point. Just asking helps someone feel less alone.
- Share your perspective. We’re our own worst critics and it’s easy to get completely lost in a stressful situation or let a bad day spin out of control. A reminder from you that life isn’t over, that there is something other than doom and gloom in this situation, and that there might even be a way to resolve it can all be super helpful things to hear.
- Give a pep talk. But only if you can make it a great one. Be honest, be upbeat, be real. And if you need some inspiration, here are 25 of the best movie pep talks. (The one from Serendipity is my favorite.)
- Make a plan to do something fun together. Having something to look forward to is an awesome life jacket on a day when your mood is sinking. Plus, science says anticipating good things makes you happier.
- Tell them it’s going to be OK and they aren’t alone. Sound cliched? Maybe, but only because this is exactly what most of us want to hear when we’re freaking out.
- Say “It could be worse” or anything like that. Yes, most things could be worse, but the last thing you want to do is invalidate how your friend is feeling.
- Share your own bad news. Sure, misery loves company, but not this is not about you and it’s not about you adding to their pile. There’s a difference between making your friend feel like you get it and overwhelming her with your problems, too.
- Say “And this will pass.” Yes, it will, but it's there right now and you’re there to listen to your friend process it.
- Offer 100 ways to solve the issue. Helpful advice? Great, but remember how overwhelmed you feel when you’re having a bad day. Don’t add to your friend’s stress level by making her feel like there are 100 things she should be doing to fix her day.
Bad days are stressful and awful. Be a super awesome human and make one slightly better for a friend. Your cape will be in the mail.