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How to Help a Peer: Start a Conversation

A peer is someone just like yourself, living life, enjoying the pleasures and encountering the struggles just as you are.

At times they are in a position to see things you are encountering from a different view, and may see you struggling. Just as you may be in a position to see them struggling.

two teen girls talk in a classroom

A peer is someone just like yourself, living life, enjoying the pleasures and encountering the struggles just as you are.

At times they are in a position to see things you are encountering from a different view, and may see you struggling. Just as you may be in a position to see them struggling.

As a peer, you may find yourself observing a friend going through difficult times and want to talk to them to offer your help.

When you find yourself in need of approaching a peer about a concern, plan what you are going to say by looking at the objective of what it is you are trying to say, give them your observations in a respectful way, actively listen to them about their point of view on the issue.

Any conversation is a two way conversation, which means take time to listen, paraphrase what you heard them say so you both are on the same page.

Crucial conversations are handled in person. This allows not only words to be heard, but expressions, which help convey what you both are trying to say, to be seen.

As emotions may run high, it is important to remember to use only factual observations to back up what you’re saying, keeping the conversation “on course” and not let it be derailed by emotions and personal agendas.

You can remove barriers to a successful conversation by being respectful and open to what the other is saying. Each of us has ingrained patterns or unconscious behaviors learned over time.

The biggest barrier to conducting an effective conversation is avoidance. Sometimes, it seems like the easiest route to take around the conversation, but, in the end, avoiding the topic will lead to resentment or to one of the parties unleashing at an inappropriate or unconstructive time.

When approaching a conversation as a concerned peer, know that the other person will most likely be emotionally invested in what you’re trying to say, and that one of the first instinctive responses to a perceived criticism is to go on the defensive.

As a peer, avoiding a crucial conversation won't be productive, just as it won't be productive if the person immediately goes on the defensive. Set the stage for these conversations by scheduling them at a mutually convenient time, acknowledging upfront that it may be difficult and establishing an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Conducting a peer conversation is an important skill. Be conscious of your approach to these conversations and consider role-playing the upcoming conversation before to hone your skills and have a productive discussion with your peer.