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What To Say When You Don’t Know What To Say

Have you even been in the situation where you had to comfort someone and you didn’t know what to say?
If so, this post is for you. You will learn exactly what to say (and not say) to comfort someone in time of crisis or even depression – even if you have low emotional intelligence or no natural empathy. To some people this comes naturally. They empathize with people. They tune in and they can do this without thinking about it and maybe you are someone with natural empathy. But there’s a lot of us in the world who don’t have natural empathy. And even people who have empathy make this common mistake. I’ll start by explaining what not to do.

Don’t say “everything will be OK.”

This is an empathy blocker because everything may not be OK. In fact, it probably won’t be okay.

I know that when you say “everything will be okay”, you’re trying to reassure them. I know your motives are strong and positive, but you are effectively telling them that they shouldn’t feel the way they do because “everything will be ok.”

In my Reflective Listening™ training I call this an invalidation – because you are accidentally and in a very subtle way telling them that the way they feel is invalid. It’s a type of an “empathy blocker” and it makes them feel worse, not better.

The other thing you never want to say is “I know how you feel” – because you don’t know how they feel.

You may have even been in what you perceive to be a similar or identical situation and you know you felt, but no matter the situation, you don’t know how they feel.

As an example, let’s say that one of your parents died and one of their parents just died. You remember how you felt and say, “I know how you feel”. But, what you know is how you felt in that situation, not how they feel in this situation.

You want to help and have good intentions, but when you say “I know how you feel”, it invalidates them once again.

Here’s What To Say To Comfort Someone

Use Reflective Listening.

Basically shut up and absorb what they’re trying to tell you.

In this situation it’s really important not to say anything – because there’s nothing you can say that’s going to work except for the one thing I’m going to show you in the next paragraph. It’s the only thing you should ever say when you’re trying to comfort somebody.

Here’s the one thing that you can (and should) say: “You must feel really bad.” Or, “You must feel terrible.” Or, “That must really feel awful.” Something like that.

Don’t try to identify the exact emotion – this is close enough. And they’ll know that you understand.

In in a live workshop I can teach emotional empathy questions so you can identify the exact emotion, but in many situations you simply have to identify that they feel “bad.”

You know they don’t feel good – so they must feel bad.

When you say this you’re completely validating them and will acknowledge and agree with you.

This is how you comfort somebody in a difficult situation. Don’t say anything. Shut up and listen. Then say: “You must feel terrible.” Or, “You must feel really bad.”

Invariably they’ll say “yeah” – and then they’ll continue to tell you some more.

That’s all you’ve got to do.

You don’t have to understand them. You don’t have to know how they feel. All you’ve got to do is know that they feel bad and reflect this back to them.

Don’t try to make them feel better – because you can’t. No matter what you say or how good your intentions are. All they need is understanding.

That’s exactly what you say to comfort somebody no matter the situation – even if you don’t have natural empathy.

I look forward to hearing your story of success in the comments section below!