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What Works and What Doesn't in Supporting People

First, What Doesn't Work

Woman looking disappointed

When people are feeling strong emotional pain, they want help. But they don't want to feel like they are a problem that needs to be solved -- that they need somehow to be fixed. Still, too often:

  • We try to fix them. "You are feeling that way because ..."
  • We lecture them. "You have to ..." "You need to ..."
  • We dismiss their feelings. "Don't feel that way." "It'll be better tomorrow."
  • We try to pacify them. "Yeah, that's terrible. I know how you feel."
  • We dismiss them altogether. We do most of the talking, so we don't have to listen to them.

What Does Work

Woman looking disappointed

We know there is no quick fix to the COVID-19 situation. Still, we often feel overwhelmed, fearful and powerless. We can best help people by supporting them to feel clarity, confidence and empowerment. We can do this by:

  • Being totally present for them.
  • Listening closely to them.
  • Accepting them, not judging them.
  • Showing compassion for them.
  • Guiding them to closely clarify their situation.
  • Helping them to feel empowered -- to continue to take small realistic actions about their situation, no matter how small.

The free guidelines and step-by-step materials in this website -- and our free help, as needed -- will guide you to do all of that. To get a feel for what good support is like, see the 4-minute video What Does Circle Support Feel Like?

Other Useful Skills in Supporting Others

You can be very supportive just by using the above-listed ways for being helpful and avoiding those that are not. Here is a list of the most useful specific types of skills to have in supporting others. You don't have to master them -- just practice them.
Useful Interpersonal Skills When Supporting People Under Stress

(Photo by Alexander Dummer from