Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author
Relationships are an important part of our everyday reality. Receiving support from others can make a
major difference in our ability to cope with life’s stressors. But when someone needs our support, we
don’t want to mess up and we want to make sure we say the right thing.
Though our words may not be so profound as to change anyone’s world, those short interactions are an
opportunity to have an emotionally supportive moment which can be very impactful. Whether at work,
out in the community or at home, here are some tips on how to build rapport and make someone feel
We are often multi-tasking, and as a result when speaking with others, we are either turned towards our
desk, tv, stove or phone. This can be misread as “I don’t really care about what they’re saying”. So
instead, as listeners, our shoulders and gaze should be facing the person that is speaking. In private
conversations when someone is speaking about sensitive topics, they are sometimes embarrassed about
their issue or have never talked about it, so they will be very conscious of your reaction. To have a
gentle smile or expression of interest will increase their comfort in disclosing issues and concerns. Use
phrases like “Tell me more” or “Please continue. I’m here. I’m listening”. These tips are helpful even
when speaking with someone in times of conflict too.
Also, validating how their issues are impacting them is a simple but effective way to make them not only
feel heard and valued, but it will show that you care about their emotional and human experience. A
validating phrase might be “I understand this may be stressing you out”, “I know this isn’t easy to deal
with” or “You’re important, and you deserve to take care of yourself. By taking the right steps, you will
manage this. Just do your best”.
Without going into detail and making the conversation about you, by briefly mentioning how you have
been through a similar situation or times you’ve experienced similar emotions, it can make the person
feel like they’re not so alone, and that it’s possible to cope or manage through difficult times. We are all
complex human beings, but have similar underlying emotions. Sharing how you’ve coped may be
Lastly, leaving the option open for someone to seek you out in the future, and reaching out to them on
occasion can also make a difference. Just knowing someone cares and is there to listen when needed
can be very healing.
It can be intimidating when others come to you for support, however it may not be what you say that
makes a difference, but how you made them feel.
Author Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years. You can find more of her articles on our website www.islam.ca (Resources>Health and Wellness)