Breakups hurt. And when you see your friend going through a breakup, it often hurts you too. We have something called mirror neurons that cause us to feel what others are feeling.
So, your friend is hurting. And you may be hurting a bit too. And you want to know how to help a friend through a breakup. This article will give you everything you need to know to help your friend recover from their breakup.
What to Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say to a friend going through a breakup. You don’t want to say the wrong thing.
If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, don’t say anything. Just being there for your friend is often good enough. A lot of times you don’t need to say anything at all. Just be there for your friend.
Here are a few guidelines for talking to your friend after they get dumped:
Tell them you are here for them. We often assume that our friends know that we are there for them, but when someone is going through a traumatic event, it helps to reinforce this fact.
One message you can send a friend going through a breakup would be something like: “I’m really sorry to hear what happened. I want you to know that I’m here for you. Please let me know whatever you need.”
Ask what you can do to help. So, if you want to know how to help a friend through a breakup, one of the best ways is to simply ask them. And when you ask that question, really listen to them.
If your friend tells you that she needs space, give her space. Of course, you can produce things on your own like meals, helpful gifts, etc. (more on that later), but if your friend has any immediate needs that they want you to help with, asking is one of the best ways to get it out of them.
Offer words of encouragement. When someone is going through a breakup, it’s common for them to engage in negative self-talk and wonder why they can't get over their ex. Help your friend see how great they really are with encouraging words.
Tell them how cool, pretty, or fun they are and how much you love them. Be a source of positivity and help them avoid falling into a pit of despair.
What NOT to Say to a Friend Going Through a Breakup
When you are helping a friend through a breakup, it's easy to make mistakes. Pay careful attention to this section because saying the wrong thing can often make things worse.
Here are some things you should avoid saying to your friend:
Don’t point out what went wrong. This might seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind. Your friend is ruminating about what went wrong constantly. Don’t remind them or get them started along this path.
If they want to talk about what went wrong, you can listen, but don’t take part or even encourage it. Keeping things positive is a better course of action for you.
Avoid speaking poorly about their ex. You might be angry at your friend’s ex for breaking their heart, but don’t talk bad about them. Badmouthing is never a productive activity, and it might cause your friend to feel like they can’t talk about missing or still being in love with their ex.
Also keep in mind that they could get back together. If that happens, your friend will remember what you said. And if you badmouthed their partner, this could strain your relationship later.
Avoid trivializing their pain. When someone’s heart is broken, what determines our compassion is often not how much emotional pain they actually feel, but how much pain we believe they should feel. Being aware of this bias can help you help your friend through a breakup by understanding that your friend may be feeling more intense pain than you think they should.
Avoid statements like “Cheer up, it’s not that bad. At least we’re single now!” or “That girl wasn’t that great anyway.” Saying things like this trivializes your friend’s pain and shows that you aren’t listening to their pain in the present.
Empathy Can help a friend through a breakup
Being able to empathize with your friend can go a long way to help them through a breakup. What is empathy? According to Psychology Today, empathy is “the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character.”
So how can you exercise empathy with your friend? One of the best ways I’ve seen comes from a book called Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator.
In this book, Chris talks about something he calls tactical empathy. It sounds aggressive, but it’s not. And it’s quite simple and effective. Voss defines tactical empathy as “understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow.”
In this case, you want to be a positive influence on your friend so you can help them through a breakup. And labeling can help you do that.
I highly recommend you read this book, regardless of your profession or career goals. The skills Chris Voss teaches in this book have a wide variety of applications that go beyond business and negotiation.
One tactical empathy technique from the book I will share with you is Voss calls labeling.
You employ labeling by recognizing and then verbalizing the emotions that are arising in that situation. Don’t just put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Recognize their feelings, turn them into words, and then repeat their emotions back to them.
Labeling validates someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. You give your friend’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how they feel.
This is a good technique you can use to help your friend through a breakup over text or long distance, because it just relies on words and common sense.
The first step to labeling is identifying the other person’s emotional state. Once you have found that, labels always begin with roughly the same words:
It seems like . . .
It sounds like . . .
It looks like . . .
For example, let’s say you have a sense that your friend is feeling hurt. All you have to say is “it seems like you are feeling hurt.” And don’t worry about whether you are 100% exact with labeling.
If your first impression is wrong, your friend will correct you, “actually, I’m not feeling hurt, I’m really feeling sad.” If that happens, you can always reply with something to the effect of, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said it seems like that.”
Even if you are wrong about the emotion, it will still get your friend to label what they are feeling. Labeling feelings disrupts the raw emotion and lessens the pain. More on that later.
Also notice that the phrase begins with “It sounds like . . .” and not “I’m hearing that . . .” There is a reason for that - the word “I” causes people to put their guard up. When you say “I,” it communicates you’re more interested in yourself than your friend, and it makes you take personal responsibility for the words that come after - and the offense they could cause.
The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve labeled your friend’s emotional state, be quiet and listen. We all tend to expand on what we’ve said, to finish, “It seems like you like the way those shoes look,” with a specific question like “Where did you get them?” The power of labeling is that it invites the other person to open up and reveal more about themselves to you.
Why labeling works to help you help your friend through a breakup
There is a scientific basis for how and why this technique can help you help your friend. Professor Matthew Liberman of the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a brain imaging study where he showed people photos of faces expressing strong emotion. He found that when people were shown these photos, the brain showed greater activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that generates fear.
However, when the test subjects labeled the emotion, the activity moved to the areas of the brain that govern rational thinking. In other words, when you label an emotion, applying rational words to a negative emotion like fear, it disrupts the raw intensity of the emotion.
Labeling might seem awkward at first. You might expect that your friend will jump up and say, “Don’t you dare tell me how I feel!”
But the reality is that people never even notice when you label their emotions. When someone empathizes with you, it feels good. It’s almost like a massage for your emotions because someone understands you and what you’re going through.
So don’t be afraid to use labeling to help your friend through a breakup. It will go a long way to soften the emotional pain they are feeling, and it will help the two of you bond more closely so that your friendship is stronger than ever before.
One final note is that this technique is especially helpful for guys who want to help a friend through a breakup. Because men are generally less in touch with emotions than women, using a technique like this can help guys make a conscious effort to recognize and label emotions.This will not only enable guys to help a friend through a breakup, but also strengthen their ability to empathize, which is an invaluable skill.
Help your friend through a breakup by taking care of chores and tasks
The emotional weight of a breakup can be so consuming that many people neglect household chores and even self-care. One thing you can do to help your friend through a breakup is to step in and go the extra mile for your friend to take care of themselves and their surroundings.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Bring them food. When someone is going through a breakup, they are often too sad to cook for themselves. Try making a hot meal for your friend and bring it over to them.
Get them some self-care. You can schedule an appointment for your friend to get a massage, manicure/pedicure, and even a hair appointment for a post-breakup fresh look.
Send them new bedding. It’s always best to help your friend get rid of things that remind them of their ex. Clean sheets will go a long way towards that goal.
Help them clean up their house. When people are feeling down, they often don’t do household chores very well. If you have the heart for it, come over and help your friend get their house in order.
With mundane tasks handled, your broken-hearted friend can focus on processing and healing. And what could be more helpful than that?
The one thing that will help your friend get through a breakup more than anything else
There is one thing that will help your friend get through a breakup more than anything else - letting go. When someone is having a tough time getting over someone else, it’s because they are having a tough time processing their emotions.
In psychology, the ability to process emotions and let them go is called emotional self-regulation. Some people are naturally better at this than others. And people who have strong self-regulation abilities tend to live longer and have a lower incidence of chronic disease.
The good news is that self-regulation is something you can learn, practice, and strengthen. The Breakup Healing System is a course on self-regulation, but specifically for a breakup.
It’s a lot more than that too. It goes far beyond just processing emotions. It’s also about self-discovery, creating an inspirational vision of the future, and creating it in your life.
But this adventure starts with letting go. I’ve created a free 4part video course that explains the basics of letting go and gives you a few simple exercises you can do to help you let go.
You’ll find a link to this video at the end of this blog post. I encourage you to check it out and see how it works. Even if you are not going through a breakup right now, you can still find things to let go of.
So, you can watch the video and do the exercises for yourself. From there you can decide if it’s something you want to share with your friend. And if it is, you can share it by saying something like, “Hey I found this new technique online that enables you to process what you’re feeling from your breakup and let it go. Would you like to try it out?”
And if your friend says yes, then share with them a link to the video so they can try it out for themselves. When I discovered this technique, it completely transformed my life in a positive way. I know it can do the same for your friend.
So, check out the link below now and see if it’s something you want to share with your friend.