As a therapist, I often coach clients on how they can more effectively communicate with the people they care about most. If someone in your life is stressed or overwhelmed, and you are struggling with how best to respond, I’d suggest getting curious about the situation.
Get curious about the situation
That’s what we do as therapists. We don’t get overly involved or have an emotional response, rather we get curious. Asking someone for more information about what’s distressing them is a smart place to start.
Rather than giving advice or suggesting solutions, asking questions will show the person that you are invested in them and their experience. It feels much less dismissive to say “Tell me more about that” than it does to tell someone what you think they should do to lower their stress level.
Talking about the situation, and the emotions that are underneath the stress will help someone process through it.
It helps to be a good listener and to approach the situation as one you want to learn more about, not one you want to fix with your suggestions.
Let your natural instinct for curiosity lead you to seek a better understanding of the stressors. People really do appreciate feeling validated and truly heard.