It’s not always easy to know what to say when you’re going through a tough time. Sometimes your words are met with misunderstanding or even anger, and other times the person facing difficulty is feeling too vulnerable to hear anything at all. “What should I do?” you might find yourself thinking, frustrated that no matter how hard you try, it seems like nothing makes any difference. Sometimes there are indeed no right words–but in an effort not to get ahead of ourselves here, let’s talk about some things you shouldn’t say instead.
“I know what you’re thinking”
If you don’t, then it’s not your place to assume anything. Even if someone has told you how they feel unless they have explicitly said that this is what they are thinking it isn’t up for grabs. Even if you know what someone thinks, it’s up to them to speak it themselves.
“It could be worse”
When you’re suffering, it’s not always easy to see how things could be worse. While the person saying this might mean it as comfort, often they are underestimating what is already a difficult situation. The truth is that whether they are aware of it or not, they might be exacerbating the problem by diminishing its severity; reminding someone that things could be worse tends to make them feel even more isolated and alone.
“I know how you feel”
Just because you’ve faced something similar doesn’t mean that you know how they feel. A situation might look similar on the surface, but there are always unique details to every story. Chances are your friend is facing an experience no one else has had before, so trying to compare it to something you’ve gone through is insensitive at best and dismissive at worst.
“You’ll get over it”
While this might not be something the person saying it intends, what they are implying is that there is no reason for you to still be feeling this way since the situation has changed or passed already. And while yes, most things do resolve themselves in time, not everyone will “get over” something. For some people, there is a sense of finality that accompanies what they are going through, and telling them to just move on isn’t helpful or realistic.
This question is a fine one to ask someone, but unless they are comfortable bringing it up don’t push them. They will likely share what has been going on when they feel ready. In the meantime try asking “how are you feeling,” which allows the person to open up without having to go into all of the details. Remember that they may not know what to say as well as you do, and by the same token, there is no reason for them to feel obligated to share anything if they don’t want to.
“No one else is going through this”
This statement erases an individual’s reality and makes it seem like their emotions and experiences aren’t real. It is difficult enough to feel like just you are going through something, and when others try to convince us that we’re alone or that our pain isn’t valid, it can be hurtful and discouraging.
“Let me know when you’re better”
People who are struggling often feel like they need to be completely better to return to their normal lives, and while this isn’t always the case it can make them feel inadequate or like they aren’t trying hard enough. This is especially true when there has been a change in social statuses such as marriage or changing schools because people might assume the person is ready to return when in reality they are still adjusting.
“At least” tends to be an unnecessary and unhelpful phrase, which is often used as a counterpoint to “no one else has experienced this.” No matter how you look at it, there is always something positive that can be seen in any bad situation. Saying “At least…” just makes the person feel like they’re not allowed to be upset about their problems.
“Everything happens for a reason”
You might believe this to be true, but just because you think that something happened for a certain reason doesn’t mean that the person experiencing it does as well. And remember that there is no way of knowing what fate has in store–and why it has chosen to bestow its gifts upon someone.
“Just get on with it”
No one wants to be told that they should just “get over it” and move on with their day. Think about how you feel when someone tells you this, and apply the same thought process to what another person may be experiencing. Chances are they don’t feel like getting over something so easily–and you might not, either.
“It’s part of life”
When trying to minimize someone’s problem by saying that it is “it’s part of life,” you are telling them that their pain and emotions are not valid. This phrase implies that because bad things happen to everyone, the person should just suck it up and deal with it.
“You should try something else”
If someone is feeling stuck or unhappy, saying that they should quit or do something else to solve their problems implies that this is an easy solution. It might not be the answer for everyone, but it shows a lack of understanding and compassion if you tell them there’s something better out there without knowing what they need.
“You’ll be fine”
The truth is that you don’t know how they will be in the future. There are a variety of factors at play, and no one can tell with certainty what may or may not happen as a result of whatever it is that they’re going through. The best thing to do is simply to be supportive and reassuring.
Being told you are exaggerating or seeing a situation as more serious than it is can make the person feel like they aren’t allowed to express their feelings. It invalidates someone’s emotions and makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them for feeling the way that they do when in reality they just need to process everything.
“It’s best if you don’t talk about it”
While it might be a good idea to listen and understand someone’s problems without offering too many suggestions, this statement is often said with a hint of frustration or annoyance. And while the last thing anyone who is struggling wants to do is burden others, ignoring the elephant in the room only makes things more difficult. When someone goes through a hard time, they should feel like they can talk about it and be supported to help them get through it.
And there you have it! The above-listed information should serve as a guide for what not to say when going through a tough time, but hopefully, it won’t be necessary. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out and let them know that they can talk to you about what they are going through–and that they aren’t alone. Thanks for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to share!