9 Ways to Offer and Receive Support

9 Ways to Offer and Receive Support

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“How can I support you?” is one of my favorite questions to ask at the start of a coaching conversation.

What I’m really asking is, “What is your support language?”

So much has been written about our Love Languages and most people are familiar with their Primary Love Language. Gary Chapman has identified five in his book, and perhaps there are more.

But what about Support Languages?

Often what we want most is support but don’t know how to ask for it. We also don’t know that there are many ways (languages) in which we can offer and receive support.


Here are the top nine Support Languages I’ve identified:


1. Deep Listening

Truly and attentively listen to the person asking for support, without any interference from your own thoughts, opinions, or biases. Make sure you eliminate all external distractions. One single ring of a text can destroy the value of the act.


2. Embracing Silence

Hold space to embrace silence, regardless of how uncomfortable you may feel. Often, we find it difficult to tolerate silence and rush to fill it with our own words. Resist that urge. Remember, support is focused on the needs of the other, not ourselves. If they choose to remain silent, regard that silence as a precious and sacred moment.


3. Creating Context

Some people need to know that they’re OK. They need to know that an action they’ve taken will not define them for the rest of their lives. They need to hear that individuals they admire and respect have made similar mistakes and have managed to overcome them. Support in this situation sounds like sharing a story, personal or otherwise, that gives context and creates a sense of normalcy, not catastrophe, for the listener.


4. Being Vulnerable

Never “perform” vulnerability. However, if sharing a life experience, however painful to recount, can allow the other to feel less alone in their pain or problem, then it’s worth the effort. Embrace vulnerability as a means to provide profound and genuine support, rather than using it as an opportunity to turn the spotlight on yourself.


5. Doing Something

Sometimes support needs to come in a practical package. It might be what Chapman calls Acts of Service or Quality Time. The other might ask that you run an errand for them, call someone on their behalf, or make a meal for them. Be prepared to take external action (if at all possible) once you’ve asked, “How can I support you?”


6. Problem Solving

Sometimes support looks like rolling up our sleeves to help solve an existing problem. Often so many of us steer directly into telling the other person what to do. That’s not support — it’s control. True Problem Solving support looks like asking questions to learn more about the circumstances and creating an open, non-judgemental space for ALL ideas to be considered. If you believe there is only one solution to a given problem then you need to review Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. There is always more than one way to see anything.


7. Innovating

I admit that this is my favorite support language! Bringing lightheartedness, humor and play into the conversation. Start with the sentence stem, “What if…” and allow for new and innovative thoughts and solutions to surface.


8. Cheerleading

Sometimes encouragement and cheerleading is what we need most to get us motivated. Knowing that someone (other than our own doubt-filled self) believes in us is enough to keep us going.


9. Showing Up

As an introvert, I’ve learned this language perhaps quite late in life. But what I know for sure now, is that there is no substitute for being there. This is the language I speak less well than any other, but it’s the one I’m committed to becoming so much better at.



Although our Love Language tends to remain the same regardless of circumstances, our Support Language can and does change based on the situation. You will likely have one language that you’re most adept at, but to give and receive support like a pro, we need to be multilingual.

Let me know if I’ve missed a language and I’ll add it to my list.

As an additional practice, you can go through this list with your loved ones and ask them to tell you which and in what way you can use these 9 languages to support them.

Be forewarned. It will take courage to hear the truth.

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