As we swim deeper into our 20s, the problems we talk about with our friends become much more serious and have much bigger consequences than the things we used to talk about. The complaints of early relationship woes, the art of hiding a hangover, and the inability to make it through a hot yoga class without passing out now all seem minuscule in comparison to the types of things we get into with our friends now.
The most common and frustrating conversations friends in their mid-20s have revolve around work. The nature of the job, issues with coworkers, complications with bosses, stresses with clients. There's so much we all endure alone during the work day, sometimes it can be hard to explain it to a friend, especially when that friend doesn't work in the same industry or have the same troubles in their line of work.
But even though you might not be able to understand what your friend is going through, you have to be able to find it in yourself to understand where your friend is coming from, which is surely relatable. We all want the same things out of a job, we want to be able to support ourselves, we want to satiate something in us creatively and we want to feel powerful and in control of our responsibilities. But at the same time, we want friends and a support system and a boss who respects us, sees potential in us and acts as a mentor. We want to look up at our bosses, and be able to lean on our coworkers and have our clients rely on us. But that's not always easy to achieve. Any one of those things can fail to perform or fall out of sync and seriously interrupt one's work life, which immediately affects the rest of their life. These are seven ways you can support your friend who is struggling at work, even if you don't understand what they're going through:
Try To Understand
Ask your friend to tell you about her role in her company and be a good listener. If your friend is coming to you for support, it will be hard for you to give it if you don't understand her position. Get as much information as you need to understand her situation, without harassing her with questions.
Be A Scale
Help your friend weigh the pros and cons of staying. Even if your friend seems hysterical or angry, do your best to stay calm and patient while you take notes for both options.
Search For A Solution
Talk it out. See if there's anything the two of you can come up with together. Look at the obstacles and the objectives and see if there's a way your friend can still get what she needs out of her job. Don't over-insert yourself into her drama, but do be open to participating in a interactive conversation.
Practice Empathy, Not Sympathy
You're not in her position so you can't know how she feels, no matter how well she explains it to you. Don't belittle her feelings by saying things like "well at least you still have X" or "it's going to get better" — instead, tell your friend you're sorry she's going through a tough time and let her know that you're there for her. If you can't fix it, you can at least validate her feelings and make her feel less alone with them.
Talk to your friend about back up options, if she's willing. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that there are other jobs and other options if the current one doesn't work out. But don't be overbearing, your friend might not be ready to think outside of her current situation just yet and that's totally fine.
Work isn't everything. If your friend had a bad day at work, help her to remember that it's not her whole life by adding something special to her private life. Take her to a movie, go on a long walk with her, go have a nice dinner where you don't mention work. Sometimes it can feel like your job is your whole life, but it doesn't have to be. Remind your friend not to give up on enriching her life outside the office, too.
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