How to Be Present for Someone in Need

When encountering someone in emotional pain, many people rush to offer well-meant input in an attempt to fix or stop another’s pain, but in most cases, you insert your own beliefs, judgments and emotions into the situation. You might offer unrequested advice, unsolicited comments, and unwanted feedback, even if with the best of intentions. And yet all these only add to the recipient’s pain.

What not to do:

It is inappropriate to offer suggestions or advice, unless you are specifically asked for such feedback.

One of the worst things you can say in any situation of emotional pain or distress is, “Well, at least…” This useless phrase is patronizing and completely invalidates how the person feels.

Never turn the focus on yourself. “When that happened to me…” or “What worked for me was…”

Don’t assume. “You’ll feel better tomorrow,” or “Everything will work out just fine, you’ll see” are empty promises.


Allow the person to be where he or she is, to feel what he or she feels; be empathetic and let the person know you hear the pain or fear. Allow him or her to safely express pain to you.

Actively listen (read more about this here without comment or judgment.


Sit in silence with the person.

Ask the person in pain what he or she wants or needs and be prepared to offer just that. The hurting person may not be able to answer, “What can I do for you?” Instead, say something like “I’ll check in with you tomorrow. May I bring you lunch? If you don’t want company I can just leave the meal.”

Ask simple yes or no questions. “Would you like me to hold your hand?” “May I call you tonight to check in on you?”

Provide a very quick call or note that says you’re present and able to be of service.

Offer to accompany the person to offer support where needed, such as to a doctor, mortician or other difficult appointment.

We all want to be helpful and loving when someone we know is in pain. If you are in pain yourself and can’t find a way out, there is always a compassionate, knowledgeable resource at Soul Wisdom Therapy.

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