Emotional Support is the type of support that pops into our heads when we usually think of social support: someone that will accept and understand us, calm our fears, and reliably be there.
This support could come from a close friend (“Let me tell you about the day I just had!”) but also be someone that offers brief encouragement or empathy, like when you share a sympathetic look with someone at the grocery store who is also frustrated to find their favorite item isn’t stocked. We are typically accustomed to this type of support but when physical comfort is not available, appreciating the emotional connections we have daily can improve our wellness.
People show emotional support for others by offering genuine encouragement, reassurance, and compassion. This might include things like verbal expressions of sympathy or physical gestures of affection.
Some people have a knack for being emotionally supportive, but this skill doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Ask questions, listen, validate and check in.
Next, listen. Listening actively, or empathically, is another important part of providing emotional support. When you really listen to someone, you give them your full attention.
The support people often want most is judgment free recognition of their distress. So, when a loved one tells you about the challenges they’re going through, they may not need you to jump in and help. You might offer the best support simply by showing concern and offering a caring presence.
Finally, check in to see how they’re coping.
Emotional support isn’t tangible. You can’t see it or hold it in your hands and you may not notice its impact right away, especially if you’re struggling.
But it can remind you that others love you, value you, and have your back.
When you offer emotional support to others, you’re telling them they aren’t alone. Over time, this message may have even more of a positive impact on mental health than temporary mood-boosters or forms of support.