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8 Common Yet Ignorant Ways To Comfort A Person

8 Common Yet Ignorant Ways To Comfort A Person

When someone opens up to us about the struggles they are facing in their life, it can be tough trying to avoid the same tired old platitudes. When we sympathize with someone, we are acknowledging that they are suffering. This sounds great, but is actually insufficient if you really want to help someone through their problems. What people need during tough times is your empathy – the ability to enter into their pain with them, remain non-judgemental, and respect what they are feeling without trying to impose your own opinions. This can be tricky, because many of us were raised to be sympathetic rather than empathetic.

So, what shouldn’t you say when comforting someone who is facing emotional or psychological pain? Read on to find out what phrases you ought to avoid, and how you can demonstrate a more empathetic response instead.

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1. “At least…”

Do not minimize someone else’s suffering by saying something like, “Well, your marriage may be falling apart, but at least you have a partner!” These kind of responses divert attention away from the other person’s actual pain.

2. “Cheer up!”

The last thing anyone feeling low needs to hear is to be told to “cheer up.” Human emotions just don’t work like that – and if you truly attempt to understand someone else, you’ll know this to be the case. When was the last time anyone telling you to cheer up actually helped? Exactly! A much better approach is to respect the other person’s emotions.

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3. “Give yourself a deadline!”

Sometimes well-meaning people suggest setting a grieving or anger “deadline.” They may say something like, “Give yourself a couple of months to get over it,” or even, “It’s been six weeks now, why aren’t you over your breakup/miscarriage/etc.?” This approach overlooks the fact that everyone’s emotional processes are different, and what may be a small blip for one person may be a big deal for another.

4. “You’re so lucky compared to others!”

Yes, it can be a good idea to count one’s blessings from time to time. However, it isn’t helpful to hear this when you’re in the midst of emotional pain. Such phrases overlook the very real problems someone is facing in the present.

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5. “Let’s not talk about that any more, it’s depressing.”

If you find it hard to handle what you are hearing, find a polite way to excuse yourself from the conversation. Do not, under any circumstances, just tell the other person that you should talk about something more uplifting! It isn’t their job to bend in accordance with your wishes.

6. “Just keep busy.”

Another common piece of advice given to people undergoing emotional turmoil or depression is to “keep busy.” The trouble with this advice is that during difficult times it can be immensely hard to concentrate on “keeping busy” in the first place. In addition, distractions don’t make the underlying problem go away. Therefore, this suggestion is inappropriate.

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7. “I think what you should do is…”

A significant element of empathy is being able to remain non-judgemental towards the person who is telling you about their troubles. When you start trying to give advice or even telling them how to run their life, you are not being empathetic – you are merely being annoying and insensitive. Whilst you may want to “fix” this person, the more helpful response is simply to let them talk about whatever it is they are dealing with and to trust that they will discover a solution that works for them.

8. “Let me tell you about my experience…”

It can be tempting to try and relate someone else’s experiences to your own life history, but think carefully before telling them your own story. Do not dominate the conversation and make it all about you. Keep your attention on the other person, and if you have a past experience that you think may be relevant, ask them whether they would like to hear it before launching into an anecdote.

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Jay Hill

Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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