In a world divided by so many differences, the truth is that we’re all very much the same. We all want to be happy and to live meaningful lives. We all struggle with similar challenges and insecurities. We all need someone to be there at one time or another.
When a person is feeling upset, angry, sad, disappointed, anxious, or any other negative emotion, this is the opportunity for you to be there for them. To help them feel less alone. It’s a time where you can reflect back on when you’ve felt a similar way and what you wished someone had said to you.
It’s not always easy to say the right thing, but it’s important that we think twice about our words. To someone going through an upsetting time, inappropriate comments can make a lot of difference – but not in a way that benefits them.
Here are 10 sentences an upset person doesn’t want to hear.
1. “You’re overreacting.”
We all have our own temperaments, personalities and life experiences. We all respond differently to different events. What may upset one person, may not upset another. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way to feel.
Telling someone that they’re overreacting isn’t empathizing with how they feel. It’s telling them, “You’re not allowed to feel that way.” It’s making them feel that what they’re actually feeling doesn’t matter.
What you want is to acknowledge how they’re feeling – without insulting or criticising them. If they are struggling to think rationally, it’s best to be kind and compassionate in your approach.
Listen to what the person has to say and try putting yourself in the person’s shoes. Try saying, “I can see how you’d feel upset…” and nod along to show you’re actually listening.
2. “Get over it.”
Everyone responds differently to stressful and upsetting events. Everyone grieves at their own pace. Everyone has their own way with dealing with things.
It’s not kind nor helpful to tell someone to “just get on with things” or to “harden up”. It’s not showing them that their sadness matters to you. It’s a very hurtful thing to say to someone already in pain.
We need to let them express how they’re feeling – it’s vital for maintaining their emotional and mental health. If we continue to push them away, they might withdraw and stop talking about their feelings completely.
My grandfather passed away when I was 11 years old. I didn’t know him all that well, but I saw his life fade away slowly with multiple strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. I recall my mother taking on the role of his full-time carer. She showered him, dressed him and fed him for the last five years of his life.
I recall walking by his room every morning before school and thinking, “This could be the last time I see my grandpa.”
I am now 26 years old, yet when I think of him, I still feel incredibly sad. I’ve been told in the past to “get over it”. But grief and pain doesn’t have a time limit. You’re allowed to be sad.
Instead of saying, “get over it”, try saying, “I know things are really hard for you at the moment. Let me know when you want to talk about it.”
3. “You’re such a cry baby.”
Crying is a very effective way of letting your feelings out. A way of releasing all the emotions you’ve been keeping locked inside. People who cry are often labelled as ‘weak’. But they’re not. In fact, they’re strong for having the courage to be honest about how they’re feeling.
I’m a very sensitive person and up until I was in my early 20’s, I thought it was something to be ashamed about. I hated that part of myself. I was repeatedly told that I was a “cry baby” and that crying in front of people was embarrassing.
But I know now that it’s not. Crying is normal. And I’ve realised that my sensitivity means I am more empathetic. I’m more aware of how other people might be feeling. I can relate better with others and have more honest and fulfilling relationships.
Instead of rushing to put a stop on someone’s tears, let them cry it out. Put a hand on their shoulder and let them take their time. Get them a tissue. Remind yourself that what you’re doing – just being there – is enough.
4. “Your life isn’t that bad.”
Just because a person generally has a ‘happy’ life, doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to feel unhappy. Telling someone, “Your life isn’t that bad” can make someone feel that they’re ‘complaining about nothing’ and their problems are trivial.
When you tell someone all the things they should be grateful for, it can shine a light on the positive but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem at hand.
Try a kinder and gentler approach. For example, if someone has lost their job but they’re quite wealthy, you could say, “I know it sucks that you’ve lost your job, you’re probably worried you won’t find one soon. Do you want to look at job vacancies together?”
5. “You don’t look good.”
When someone is going through a difficult time, the last thing on their mind is how they look. They may be struggling to get a good night’s sleep, not eating as well as they should be, and already feeling low and insecure about themselves.
Three years ago, I was going through possibly one of the hardest times in my life. I wasn’t sleeping well and it was quite evident on my face. And a friend of mine saw me and immediately said, “You look really tired.”
There was no “Hello”. No, “Are you okay? You look really tired.” Although I’m sure the person didn’t mean to be hurtful, the comment left me feeling worse than I already was feeling.
If you’re concerned that your loved one is behaving or acting differently, simply say, “I’m worried about you. Try to eat well and get enough sleep. If you need anything at all, just let me know.”
6. “Just tell me what’s wrong!”
For some people, it’s not easy to open up and express their emotions and feelings. It’s not easy to put into words how they feel. Don’t rush them into opening up. Instead, make it clear that you’re there for them, but you will give them the time and privacy that they need.
Try saying, “When you’re ready to talk about it, I’ll be here for you.”
7. “You’re always angry.”
Sometimes it’s so easy to label someone ‘angry’, than it is to look beneath the surface. Why do you think they are ‘always angry’? Is there something going on in their life that they’re too afraid to talk about?
Is their ‘angry’ attitude a result of negative experiences in the past? Is it possible that depression, or some other illness, might be the cause?
Rather than criticizing your loved one, seek to understand their behaviors. Think about what may have happened to them recently or what may be happening to them now. Show them kindness and compassion.
Try saying instead, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been really upset lately. Do you want to talk about it?”
8. “You’ll be fine.”
Reassuring a loved one that they will be okay is great – unless it’s done in a patronizing and condescending way. Don’t dismiss how they’re feeling and brush off what they’re trying to say.
People don’t always want solutions. They want someone to listen, to remind them that their pain is valid.
Instead, try, “I know everything is hard at the moment, but try to hang in there. Let me know if you need anything.”
9. “You’re bringing me down.”
Nobody likes to feel that they’re a burden, that they’re bothering someone with their problems. But when you say, “you’re bringing me down”, it can have a much deeper impact than you realize.
The person going through a difficult time might feel even more lonely, more helpless. They might wonder whether things will ever get better. They might even want to give up.
Try not to say this at all. Instead, just remind yourself that life is filled with ups and downs. And your loved one just needs a hand in being lifted back up.
10. “I’m too busy to talk.”
When I was 18 years old, I saved someone from ending their life simply through talking. I’d only known the person for two weeks, yet I sat with him in his car for two hours. He was a friend of my now-husband’s and the second I looked at him, I knew he needed to talk.
He told me why he was living off of chocolate bars for dinners. He told me why he had a broken relationship with his mother. He cried and I listened.
The defining moment came when he looked me in the eyes and said, “I was going to end my life tonight. I had it planned and everything. But you stopped me. I didn’t do it, all because of you.”
I will never ever forget those words. Because I had reached out to someone, because I had taken time out of my day to help someone, I had saved their life.
Sometimes we forget how much of a difference we can make to someone else’s life. How much our kindness, our compassion, our smile, our hug – can completely change someone else’s life.
We’re all busy. We all have responsibilities.
But we all have similar problems too.
And sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are important. That our feelings matter.
Rather than saying to someone, “I’m too busy to talk,” think to yourself, “HOW can I make time for this person?”
Sometimes just 15 minutes is enough to remind them that they’re really not alone.
Sometimes just 15 minutes can save a life.
Featured photo credit: goodinteractive via pixabay.com