A kind word can be a breathtaking sunset to a hurting person
Sometimes the people in our lives go through tough stuff. We want to be a good friend and help them out, support them and be there for them, but often it’s really hard to know what the right thing is to say.
At times, we even stumble upon words of consolation that are straight-up not helpful. If you want to be truly supportive of a mate who’s not ok, we recommend avoiding these duds…
1.“You’ll get over it.”
While this seems ~kinda~ helpful, it is not really the most tactful way of telling someone that they’re strong and resilient enough to make it through a rough patch. While they may very well “get over it” in time, while they’re in it, it’s important to acknowledge where they’re at and remind them of their strength to get through.
I see that stuff is really hard for you right now. But you have gone through tough stuff before, and you can do it again.
Oh? Cheer up, you say? By jolly. I’M CURED. So this approach definitely doesn’t work (no shit). Emotions are not just something you can turn on and off like a faucet unless you are an actual sociopath. It’s ok for people not to be happy all the time. In fact, it’s human. Remind them that they’re not alone and that you’ve got their back.
It’s human to have bad days and difficult times in life. I’m here for you.
3.“Other people have it much worse.”
Sure. Objectively speaking they might not be starving, or being slowly eaten alive by bears, but they’re obviously experiencing something that they find personally challenging. While it might seem like a good thing to say (to help put things in perspective), mostly what people need in times of struggle is to feel heard and understood. After all, there is a lot of shame associated with struggle and people don’t need to be feeling worse than they already do.
This sounds really hard for you. I totally get it.
4.“Aw, don’t be sad/angry/upset…”
This used to be my default when in the presence of someone who was sad/angry/upset. Because those emotions are confronting. They’re messy. And awkward. And uncomfortable to be around. So we kind of just want them to stop. In fact, that’s why so many of us try to bottle them up or pretend they’re not there (which causes a whole world of hurt). Instead of trying to manipulate their emotional reaction, let them know there’s no shame in feeling whatever they’re feeling.
You can feel however you need to feel. Whatever it is, it’s ok.
Wow. This is straight up rude and dismissive. Whatever is happening to them might not matter much to you, but they obviously care about it otherwise it wouldn’t be affecting them. There isn’t a hierarchy of things that people are allowed and not allowed to care about. Try being more compassionate and if you want to ask something – ask how you can help.
I hear you. How can I help?
6.“Crappy weather we’re having…”
The old chestnut, ‘avoidance’. Sometimes, when someone is going through hard stuff, it’s easy to think that bringing it up and asking about it might make things worse. Perhaps, if you just ignore it and pretend everything is fine, they’ll just go back to normal and all will be well. Not likely. Most of the time people will appreciate you caring enough to ask about it, and you don’t need to press the issue if they don’t want to talk. But giving them the opportunity to open up and be real can make a huge difference for someone who’s struggling.
What’s really been going on for you lately?
Just by reading this article, you’ve proved yourself to be a good mate, who is interested in being the best support you can be to a loved one in need. Sometimes, people don’t always feel comfortable talking about challenging or emotional stuff with friends and family and that’s totally normal. Some people need to practice opening up in a safe, non-judgemental space where they can let it all out to someone who exists outside their own social sphere. Therapy is great for that. If you or someone you know could do with a session, let us know, and we can help match you with someone perfect.