Have you ever felt like you can never say the right thing when trying to comfort someone? It can be so hard to try to find a good balance of empathy, encouragement, and insight while sounding understanding. Especially through text, when you can’t physically see people and their body language. However, as tempting as it may be to try to wrack your brain endlessly for the perfect response, oftentimes, there isn’t a foolproof method or thing to say to comfort someone. Taking to someone who is in pain can be a complex, personal thing to do that we all just have to try our best. On the other hand, there are definitely some things that you shouldn’t say to someone who is hurting. Curious to know what to avoid when trying to comfort a person you care about? Here are 8 things you shouldn’t say to someone in pain.
1. It’s not that bad, and other people have it worse.
While saying something isn’t that bad about failing a test or stuttering on a presentation may sometimes be a relief, to someone hurting, it will most likely sound as if you are minimizing their pain. After all, no one wants to hear that their pain isn’t real or valid because everyone’s pain is. You cannot assume people are exaggerating their hurt, for you can never truly know what they’re feeling. The same logic applies to saying other people have it worse. No two people’s pain is the same, so you cannot compare them. Doing so will likely end up with the other person feeling as if they are weak, and their pain is unimportant. So next time you’re talking to someone hurting, try to avoid downplaying their pain. Instead, try to make them feel valid and heard.
2. Just stop worrying and let it go.
When someone is in pain, it’s probably not something they can stop thinking about easily. Telling them to move on isn’t great advice when it comes to comforting someone since pain is not as simple as just stopping. If you say this to someone, it will likely sound as if you’re treating their pain as a phase or mood they can snap out of. However, we all know that someone hurting is a serious and important topic that cannot simply be gotten over.
3. It’s not bothering anyone else.
People are different, so naturally, things affect them differently. You cannot base how valid someone’s feelings are off other people. The bottom line is that all thoughts and feelings are important, and treating them as trivial simply because of others will only hurt whoever you’re comforting. Instead, try to help them feel comfortable and acknowledged.
4. You don’t need to feel this way.
The idea of taking control of your emotions sounds great, but in reality, it’s more like our emotions control us. Telling someone to just make themselves feel a certain way simply isn’t how people work. After all, our emotions are here for a reason. They point us in the right direction and help us make sense of what we’re going through. For example, being discontent would let you know that your needs aren’t being met, and something is missing from your life. Bottling up your emotions doesn’t make them go away. If you suppress them, they will keep building up until you cannot contain them anymore, then they’ll burst out more intensely than before.
5. You’re too sensitive.
People often call others sensitive when they think a joke has gone too far or don’t want to do something someone else does. Nowadays, being called sensitive may have a perceived negative connotation. Especially when saying it to someone in pain. Calling them too sensitive makes it sound as if they are not strong enough to deal with their pain. It also implies that their pain isn’t bad, so a “stronger” person could. The bottom line is calling someone too sensitive has become a way to shame people for feeling their emotions, which is obviously not a good thing.
6. Calm down.
As simple as these two words may seem, they can actually be quite harmful. Especially if someone is mad, telling them to calm down may end up being like putting Mentos into a bottle of coke. Besides the obvious fact that it’s not as simple as just calming down, saying calm down to someone hurting may also make light of their emotions. After all, everyone deserves to feel all their emotions, including anger, to their full extent.
7. You should feel grateful for…
While, yes, there are plenty of things to be grateful for and looking on the positive side of life is great, it’s not something someone in pain wants to hear. Imagine if you were hurting, would you want to hear all about everything you should be happy about? Chances are the answer is no, so try not to say that to anyone else either. It can make it sound as if you’re dismissing and distracting from their pain instead of acknowledging and listening to them.
8. Chin up.
Words of encouragement are normally good, but they can end up oversimplifying someone’s pain and making you sound insensitive. Instead of trying to uplift their immediate mood, try to hear them out and talk about the root of their hurting.
Comforting people is especially important during the pandemic, for everyone is struggling in different ways, whether we can see them or not. Although talking to someone in pain can seem like a lot of pressure, just try your best and remember to treat them as if it were you in pain. While there may not be a perfect thing to say, you can definitely avoid causing more hurt if you stay away from these phrases. If you’d like to learn more about what you should say, check out this article all about it!
Do you have anyone in mind to comfort? Do you think these tips on what not to say will help you? As always, feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts, experiences, and input!