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What Not To Say To Someone In Pain

Let's give people a break.

BY Pauline Katethya

Mar 17, 2023, 08:31 AM

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Often when someone is going through a hard time and they hide it from us we usually take offence, while in reality, we barely offer people a safe space to open up. We don’t give people enough or all the emotional support they need.

We are usually quick to judge or compare their situation to other people making them feel weak and ultimately robbing them of an opportunity to take some weight off their shoulders. We should be kind and gentle towards other people and be considerate of what we say before we make things worse.

Some of the toxic phrases we use include everything happens for a reason and that's the way life is. Here are more toxic phrases we shouldn’t tell people in distress. 

You Should Toughen Up. 

Life is never smooth. There will be storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes. These storms at times are so rough that they threaten to tear us apart and unearth us from the ground we once stood firmly on. No one is safe. Anything can happen to someone, we are all bound to go through unbearable situations in life.

So, telling someone to toughen up is like expecting them to have some superpowers and snap out of the very things they are going through. We should allow people to be human and let them go through their grieving process. 

We are always told to be strong and toughen up but we don’t have to be strong all the time. Being strong can be exhausting. When life knocks us down, it’s okay to stay on the ground as we put ourselves back together. People are not weak for experiencing the harshness of life so, we shouldn’t make them feel like lesser human beings.

You Are Not The First One To Go Through This.

While this might seem like motivation or encouragement, it doesn’t make things any better. In fact, it’s like adding more salt to the injury. Telling someone you are not the first to go through this robs them of the experience to feel everything they need to. 

Even though it might be a popular problem that everyone experiences, it might make someone feel weak for going through something. It’s good to acknowledge that we have different strengths and emotional capacities to handle different things in life. 

What might feel light for someone might feel heavy for another. It’s also good to remember that we all have different traumas, unresolved wounds, and coping mechanisms, so expecting all of us to have the same strengths is unrealistic. 

I Went Through The Same Thing When I…

We can be quite selfish. When someone is being vulnerable with us, we don’t have to immerse ourselves in their experience. We don’t have to remind them of a similar experience we went through to make it seem like it’s not a big deal. 

That’s their moment. We should give them a listening ear and refrain from belittling them in any kind of way. This isn’t also the time to give opinions or any advice. We should be selfless and aware enough to ask them how they need us to be there for them. 

Sometimes people just need someone they can sit with in silence or someone they can talk to. Not every situation needs an urgent solution. Neither does robbing them of their moment make it any better. 

I Understand What You Are Going Through.

While a situation may be familiar, we can’t honestly say that the same things affect us equally. As mentioned before, people have different emotional capacities. How I might react to bad news is not the same way you might react. 

So telling people you understand what they are going through is a lie because you don’t. They are the only people who can feel the intensity of the situation. What we can do is be there for them in whichever way they need us to be and support them unconditionally

Other People Have it Worse.

It’s not unusual to open up about something only for someone to tell you that you shouldn’t be feeling that way, someone else is in a tougher spot. Someone pouring out their heart doesn’t mean that they have opened up a conversation on who has it worse than the other.

We should allow people to be without invalidating their experiences or their emotions. While it's true that other people might be in a tougher spot, this isn’t usually the best time to communicate this. It is insensitive. All that matters at the moment is listening to them.

You Should Be Grateful.

Someone said he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches the most. It’s easy to look at someone's problem and deem it insignificant especially when someone who seems to have their life figured out opens up. People just assume that just because you are wealthy, healthy, happy, or in a relationship, you don't experience the bad side of life. 

This forces people to remind others that they should be grateful for what they have because many people would die to be in their position. This is quite inconsiderate. Everyone is going through something, no matter how happy or okay they may seem. Instead of reminding them to be grateful, how about just being there for them?