1. Face them directly or sit next to them and hold their hand. A human connection in a time of trouble can be the saving grace for a soul.
2. Listen to what they are saying and hear what they are not saying. The only way you can do this is if you truly stop looking for a fix, looking for the next words to reply and instead respond with your full presence.
3. Find the heart of compassion within you and hold a loving space for this soul to finish his or her story. Make no judgment about their actions and just really be present in the moment for them.
4. Without any judgement, seek to understand their perspective even if you don't. Ask questions if you don't understand but only ask questions to assist in your understanding and not to judge them or lead them down the path of judgment.
5. Affirm this person by letting them know that you are there and you care about them. Withhold any judgments or thoughts on what they should do. Compassion does not judge or fix, compassion is just there fully and you can be too.
6. If the person is open to a hug and you feel so inclined, hug them and give them a shoulder if they need it and again, don't judge or fix. Respond with a moment of understanding absent all judgement.
To strive to conduct these actions can result in the receipt of a very important gift to someone in a challenging time. If you attempt to fix, they may feel more broken and that is not helpful. Ask questions if you want in a way that will be supportive, (e.g., "I can see this really weighs heavily upon you, what do you think you are going to do?") Then just listen some more. Offer no unsolicited advice out of deep respect for someone in pain. If you let people work through their wounds, they can find their way out. If they ask for your advice or opinion, then give it if you would like to but please be aware, although we have many similar experiences - no one knows the path of another...an easy fix for you may be another person's biggest mistake. Just give them a moment of understanding, of non-judgmental love and acceptance. Sometimes that is all that is needed for a soul to collect themselves and move through the emotion of a challenging lesson.
So often, we are well meaning and attempt to "fix" another or rescue them in some way. Sharing the burden of pain is not necessarilly a good thing. Sympathy and empathy can be an emotional trap that we unfortunately walk right into without realizing until its way too late. Stay grounded in your own light and share that light with another without taking on their pain and without reinforcing their weakness. If anything, you can be supportive by letting them know that you believe in them and their ability to come to resolution of whatever it is that troubles them. If you have similar experience - share only with permission - don't shove it out there. The ego tends to contrast and compare but that isn't always helpful.
The gift of a single moment of understanding can bring so much healing to a soul in pain. Give that gift whenever you can and you will find that it will come back to you some day when you most need it. ~Blessings
(c) 2012 Jaie Hart (photo, random internet find)