How to Support a Colleague Going through a Difficult Time

Helping and holding space with a colleague while going through a difficult time can be incredibly confusing. People are often reticent to be around someone going through a difficult time because they don’t know what to say or are afraid to say the wrong thing.

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But the best way to help a person going through a difficult time is to simply go to that person, in a private and respectful place, of course, and first acknowledge that they are going through a difficult time. Then validate what they are going through by saying things like:

  • “that must be difficult,”
  • “I feel for you,” or
  • “you’re brave…”

…as long as it comes from a genuine and caring place.

Then ask them if they want to talk about it or if they want advice or if they want to scream or cry or take a walk to let off steam. You don’t have to have all the answers and you won’t be able to fix their problem.

Try not to say things like:

  • “I feel bad for you.” No one wants pity. People would much rather have empathy; so the phrase “I feel bad for you,” becomes, “I feel for you.”
  • “It’s going to get better,” because you can’t keep that promise nor can you actually predict when it’s going to get better. Instead, you can say, “it’ll get different,” because that is a promise you can keep. Life is full of ups and downs; it will get better, not so good, and then better again.
  • “I know how you feel” because you don’t. Just be there and be present.

Simply giving them the space to express themselves goes a long way in helping that colleague going through a hard time.

Written by

Josh Rivedal is the CEO of The i’Mpossible Project and a full time author, actor, and public speaker on mental health and suicide… and part time trouble maker.

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