Your life is going swimmingly. You just got a huge promotion at work and signed a lease for your dream apartment with your boyfriend, whom you could not possibly be more in love with. Oh, and you also finally bought that bag you've wanted since you were 12 years old and an adorable puppy because, well, why not?
Simply put, life is good.
But, things aren't going so well for your best friend. She just found out her boyfriend of seven years was cheating on her... with her sister.
And before she even had a chance to process the fact that her love life has turned into what feels more like an episode of "Jerry Springer," she gets fired from her job. Without the job, she can't pay the rent for her apartment anymore, and she can't move in with you because you're moving in with your dreamy boyfriend.
So, she's spending her days desperately searching Craigslist for a random stranger to share a low-budget studio apartment with while she blocks calls from her evil backstabbing sister.
Simply put, her life is crap.
OK, so maybe your circumstances aren't quite as dramatic, but we've all been there. We've all experienced that awkward situation in which everything in our life is going fantastic, just when everything seems to be falling apart in the life of someone we love.
So, how can you be there for them and empathize with what they're going through without seeming like you're a giant bitch who gets whatever she wants?
I talked to Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a psychologist and relationship expert in New York City, to find out the best way to really be there for your friend during a tough time when everything's going great for you.
First and foremost, being there for someone requires a great deal of empathy.
A lot of the time, we make the mistake of assuming we can't be empathetic to what someone's going through if we personally haven't gone through it ourselves. So, just because your boyfriend is awesome and would never cheat on you, you think you can't understand the pain of your best friend who was just brutally cheated on by her boyfriend.
But Dr. Dardashti reminds us you really can empathize with anyone, no matter what the situation, simply by putting yourself in their shoes:
Empathy is when you put yourself in somebody else's shoes and really imagine what it could be like to be going through what they're going through. Ask yourself, 'What would I do if I was going through their situation? What would I need?'
While it is important to ask yourself what you would need and do if you were in your friend's position in order to empathize with them, Dr. Dardashti reminds us "what you need can be very subjective."
So, how do you figure out what your friend needs? Easy: Ask questions. Ask your friend what they need. Ask them how they're doing and how you can be there for them.
How do you figure out what your friend needs? Easy: Ask questions.
Dr. Dardashti gives us two basic questions to stat off with: "What can I do for you?" and "How can I be helpful to you?"
Then, listen to their answer and, well, do it. Do what they need you to do because that's what friends are for.
Don't compare their life to yours.
Here comes the tricky part. Your life is going to fantastic. You obviously want to talk about it.
Or maybe, you don't even want to talk about your awesome life right now; you want to tell your friend about that time eight years ago when you were this heartbroken and then you met Ben and now you're so happy. See? Life gets better!
I get why you want to do that. I get why it seems relevant and maybe even helpful. But Dr. Dardashti warns that this is the one thing you absolutely should not do:
Do not assume that using your own situation as an example is going to be helpful because sometimes people make the mistake of saying, 'Well, when I was going through this blah blah blah...' People don't want to always hear that because not everyone's situations are the same.
I honestly have the impulse to do this all of the time. If someone's my best friend, I assume all of our situations are the same, so I just want to create a point of comparison. But all I'm really doing when I do that is rubbing my own perfect life in her face.
"We think that rubbing it in someone's face is just boasting about what we have," Dr. Dardashti explains. "But it could also be turning the dialogue back onto yourself when that's not what somebody needs."
The fact of the matter is, they don't want to hear about you. Your friend is going through something, and all they want is for you to look at their situation and address that. It's that simple.
"Maybe someone just needs you to be a companion and sit with them and watch a movie and have a pint of ice cream, rather than trying to give them an answer or advice that they aren't really asking for," Dr. Dardashti explains.