Making any major life change is likely not going to be easy for you or the people around you. Whether you decide to stop smoking, seek a divorce, quit drinking alcohol, or lose a significant amount of weight, your new lifestyle’s success depends on a number of factors. Besides your dedication to your new life path, surrounding yourself with a positive and encouraging support group is essential.
What happens when someone tells you that you are that person in their life they’re counting on to support them? What can you do to be a “good” friend or family member?
An essential component of supporting someone while they make a major life change is to realize you are not responsible for the person’s “success” or “failure” at making the change. If you expect to be the saving grace for your partner as they try to kick a nicotine habit, you’re only setting yourself up for a failure of your own.
Recognize that you can make yourself available to the person if they need to talk, or you can help transport them to a support group, but you have no control over the actions that person decides to take. Knowing this ahead of time will help protect your own mental health and keep the expectations of yourself and the other person realistic.
Be a Listening Ear
Often, when any of us are going through a change, we simply want someone to talk to. Being a friend who is willing to listen, even without saying anything, can go a long way when it comes to supporting someone.
While you may take it for granted that the person in your life knows they can come to you in a time of need, they may actually need to hear you say that before approaching you. Remind them that you’re not judging them and are more than willing to listen to their struggles.
Consult Outside Resources
Don’t expect to have the expertise of a professional life coach. Sometimes, being part of a support network means helping the other person get connected with people who do have the expertise. If someone is struggling with an issue like weight loss, they may not have the energy or motivation to seek out friendly nutrition groups.
Doing a little research for your friend or family member (thus saving them the effort) can be helpful. Keep in mind that the person may not choose to pursue any of your suggestions, and that’s okay. When you offer help in a supportive and nonjudgmental manner, that’s what really counts.
Vocalize Your Support
Sometimes, simply telling people we care about them and that we hope they choose healthy habits is all they need to know they’re supported. People may not always take you up on your offer to help in the way you would like, but offering your assistance likely won’t go unappreciated.
Take the time to ask the person how they want you to help them. Providing a safe space for them to verbalize their needs can be lifechanging.
There are plenty of ways you can offer support to a friend or family member who is considering making a major life change. Being sure to keep your own mental health and boundaries in mind as you assist them is essential for both your health and that of the other person.