Okay, so when is it time to make that phone call to a friend or have lunch and discuss “the issue”? You know what I mean: You’ve seen her drinking a little too much lately. Or her husband was out to dinner with a colleague — and sitting a little too close for your liking. Or her new size 0 look is starting to scare you.
It can be very difficult to tell a friend how we really feel. Of course, what we fear is that she may absolutely hate us for it — and we could end up losing her friendship altogether. We also sometimes don’t tell our friends things because, truthfully, we don’t want them to confront us about things that we may need to take a serious look at in our lives.
If a friend is in danger of physical harm, it is time to intervene. I believe it is our duty as friends to have compassion and care for those we love, which sometimes means we must take action. If your friend is drinking, drugging, appears to have an eating disorder or is in a physically violent or abusive marriage, a friendtervention is in order. When it comes to her putting her own health and safety in danger, the line’s clear for me as a friend: I speak up and take action.
Share your concerns with your friend in a gentle and loving manner. It may also be useful to go to her partner or husband with your concerns, and see if he too is worried. Dealing with more serious emotional issues may need multiple interventions from multiple people. When a person is stuck in the grips of drugs or alcohol, they aren’t in the state of mind to make clear choices; they don’t have the ability to see their actions and the consequences of them clearly.
In the case of a concern about domestic violence, obviously you shouldn’t go to the spouse. But you can give your friend information about physical and emotional abuse, and assist her in receiving counseling.
Here’s a more challenging gray area: Do you do a friendtervention when a friend is complaining and complaining about certain issues in her life — but not taking action to change them? It can be very frustrating to listen to someone you love stew about her own stuck stituation over and over …. I think the question one must consider is: “Does my friend just want to vent and get stuff off her chest, or is she truly searching for answers?”
Sometimes we women bond over our messy and complicated lives, but truly don’t want anyone to help or “fix” things for us. So evaluate your friendship and decide whether you want to give concrete advice — or just commiserate. One way to figure out how your friend will respond is to give her some solid advice and see how she deals with it. If it only frustrates her further, she probably wants to just vent.
I have found it best to tread lightly and offer advice only when it’s asked for in my friendships. I know that sometimes I just need to air my own frustrations with my friend as we push our carts through Target munching on popcorn. But I also know the friends I will call when I’m at DEFCON 1 in my life and need some solid advice.