Trying to be emotionally supportive of a guy you like can easily go wrong if you do not respect boundaries. Ideally, you will be there for him without falling into the trap of playing girlfriend when you are not. Keeping the right emotional distance and knowing the best ways to get a guy to open up are the keys to supporting him while giving him the chance to discover his feelings for you.
Being playful may help guys connect emotionally, according to Helen Fisher, Ph.D., in her article “How to Build Intimacy in Your Relationship” on Oprah.com. Men are physical creatures who tend to express their feelings through action. The experiences, and not necessarily the words, you have with him are what makes you supportive. If he’s feeling frustrated and is the type to repress his feelings, suggest playing a little one-on-one basketball with him. It’s a good way to get positive emotions flowing.
If he is reaching out to you, the best thing you can do for him is to leave your judgments at the door. No one wants to be humiliated when disclosing personal information. So, try to avoid making him feel guilty or embarrassed for any reason. Take note of your nonverbal reactions as well -- eye rolling and sighs come across as judgmental. It’s best to keep your personal feelings out of it.
Don’t Overdo It
You like him and maybe he can’t tell just yet so don’t smother him. In her article “The Supportive Spouse: How to Get the Right Kind of Emotional Support” on PsychologyToday.com, clinical and forensic psychologist Joni Johnston emphasizes that you have to remember that he can confide in his friends and family. If he chooses to confide in you, great; but he must come to you. If he opens up on his own accord, it demonstrates the level of trust he has in you and makes self-disclosure more meaningful.
A key component of being supportive to anyone, not just to a guy, is to listen. If this guy is the open type or eventually gets up the courage to open up, listen. Don’t just pretend to listen, listen and listen attentively. According to the study "Active Listening in Peer Interviews: The Influence of Message Paraphrasing on Perceptions of Listening Skill" in the “International Journal of Listening,” researcher Harry Weger Jr. and his associates say that putting what is said to you in your own words shows signs of a good listener. Tell him you can relate to show that you understand, but don’t get caught up telling your relatable story. Similarly, resist the urge to dominate the conversation. This is about him, not you.
Nina Edwards holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been writing about families and relationships since 2000. She has numerous publications in scholarly journals and often writes for relationship websites as well. Edwards is a university lecturer and practicing psychologist in New York City.
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