To some, asking them how do you support your family emotionally might seem odd. But while some people are close enough to their family that being emotionally supportive comes naturally without thinking, for others being emotionally supportive isn’t a natural response.
Sure, most people provide financial and material support to their family– a roof over their head, paying the utility bills and putting food on the table–and they’ll make practical decisions that influence the family. But, when it comes time to being emotionally supportive–to be there for their family and to help them when they think and feel poorly and experience wellbeing and mentally challenging times–it can be genuinely difficult to connect.
Does this sound familiar?
If you said yes, then let’s explore support tactics you can start practicing so you can establish an emotionally supportive connection with your family.
Tactic #1 Take the time to listen
Most families talk a lot. And they often interrupt each other a lot too. This interruption often doesn’t have any ill intent; on most occasions it isn’t even a conscious decision.
So, what happens then?
When you get to know someone well, you understand the flow of how they speak, and what they’re thinking. So it becomes natural for you to cut in, finish their thought, and to take over the conversation.
However, if you’re aiming to become more emotionally supportive, then it’s time to overcome this urge. Instead, focus on actively listening to the other person. This means shutting down your own urges to interrupt or respond until they have made their point fully clear and then contemplating what’s been said.
By simply listening to your family you can be a big support. You’ll also discover that they will become more open and willing to have more in depth conversations.
Tactic #2 Be honest and be appreciative
Many families find it hard to connect and support one another emotionally as we treat each other casually and, to some degree, take each other for granted. While this is a sign that we’re comfortable around one another, it can also inhibit the chance of developing a strong emotional relationship with one another.
To increase your emotional support for your family members show them that you care by expressing gratitude. You can do this by thanking them for taking the time to explain how they feel. You can then build on this further by letting them know that you appreciate their honesty.
Tactic #3 Speak with compassion
Putting yourself in the shoes of the person that you are listening to is important. However, you need to make sure that you do it in the right way. You need to ask yourself “what is compassion?” and, in particular, how does it differ from empathizing? It’s easy for most of us to show sympathy by saying “oh, I know that feeling,” but while it can help build a sense of shared experience, you don’t want to assume that you know everything about what they are going through.
To overcome this situation, focus on what your family member is saying and how the situation is affecting them. Make sure you don’t diminish their experience just because you had a similar one but you dealt with it differently. Remember it’s all about them, not you.
Tactic #4 Be a support to yourself as well
One of the reasons that some people find it more difficult to be supportive of their family members, and others in their life, is that they simply don’t have space or time to worry about them. It’s not a matter of selfishness or self-interest, but often people that don’t give themselves some self-care every now and then and they’re running with emotional overload.
So, to move beyond this, take the time to calm your own stresses, relax and treat yourself well, and check in on yourself to see if you are okay. It can be hard to help someone with their troubles if you have trouble getting away from yours long enough to do so.
Why#5 Be a problem solver and know when to show it
Don’t fall into the trap of racing for a solution as fast as possible when someone in your family comes to you with their problems. Listen to them, let them get out their emotional response to the problem, and be there to support them first and foremost. If they get it all out, then you might want to ask them about what solutions they are considering.
If they’re open to some suggestions, then you want to make sure that you have something to offer. Learning problem-solving skills takes time, you need to exercise the creative side of your brain like a muscle and respond with both practical and emotional intelligence. If you can’t do that, then you might be better not offering any advice at all.
It takes time to develop relationships where it can feel natural and organic to support your loved ones. However, as you do, you will find that you might have your own supports to rely on, too. It’s a relationship worth building.
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