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How to Check in on Friends who Aren’t Great at Expressing Their Feelings

We all care for our friends and watching them struggle can be really difficult. When they aren’t great at communicating how they feel, things can get even more tricky. If you have someone in your life who you have trouble checking in with, here are a few tips that can help get the conversation going.

Ask Them in a Safe Space
Get Out with Jordan Peele
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If your friend is worried about something personal, it’s very likely they won’t want to share while waiting in line at Starbucks. If you feel like something may be bothering them, try bringing it up in a quiet, private area where they won’t be worried about others around you. This also means asking when the two of you aren’t around other friends. So if a friend they aren’t comfortable being around is there, they aren’t going to want to open up in front of them. Sometimes people are willing to share more with others, and that’s perfectly normal! Be conscious of your surroundings and keep in mind that the setting may play a big role in starting the conversation.

Try to Avoid “You” Statements

When starting a difficult conversation, it’s usually best to start statements with “I feel/believe/think…” instead of telling the other person what they’re doing. Sometimes this approach can cause others to get defensive and close up. If you’re trying to get them to open up, unintentionally making them feel defensive isn’t a great start. Try approaching the conversation with something like, “I wanted to check in with you and see how you’re doing. I want you to know I’m here for you if you want to talk about anything.” This is a great way to reach out without making them feel pressured or guarded.

Put Away Any Distractions

This may seem like common sense but making sure that there won’t be any distractions while talking to your friend is important. Part of creating the safe space is showing your friend that you are there to listen. If you seem distracted or spacey they might second guess whether or not they want to share their feelings with you. So a general rule of thumb is, put away any phone or other electronic device, clear your head of other thoughts running around, and make sure your friend knows they have your full attention.

Ask Them What They Need from You

When we’re upset or making a difficult decision, sometimes we want advice but sometimes we just need to vent and let our feelings out. Asking your friend what they need from you at that moment can go a long way in establishing trust. We have a lot to offer: we can still listen, give a hug, or even crack a joke if they want to be cheered up. The key is asking your friend what they need and trying your best to be the kind of listener for them.

Accept That They Might Want to Talk to Someone Else Instead

Sometimes, as much as we may want to help, we aren’t the person to help in that specific scenario. If they don’t want to talk about it with a friend, it can be beneficial to remind them of other options they can take advantage of. For example, the counseling center and PULSE offer many different options for students and are completely confidential. Accepting that we can’t always help is important, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our friend find the right person.

It can be stressful worrying about friends, especially when you aren’t sure what is going on with them. By using these tips, hopefully, your friend will feel comfortable enough to share. And if they don’t, you’re still an incredible friend for trying! Just being there for someone shows how much you care for them. As long as they know how much you care, you’ve done a great job reaching out

Jasmine Janisch

Cal Poly '23

Hello! I'm a first-year biomedical engineering student at Cal Poly. Although I'm in a STEM field, I still love to write which is why Her Campus is a great place for me!
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