What To Say To Someone Who Is Hurting Emotionally
When someone we care about is hurting emotionally, it can be hard to see them in pain. We want to help them in any way we can but we’re afraid to say the wrong thing.
Sometimes, taking a step back and thinking about the words that you want to express is the best thing to do.
We’ve made a list of things that you should and shouldn’t say to someone when they’re hurting emotionally. At the end of the day, we’re all human and it’s nice to have some peace of mind.
Who Are They To You?
One of the first things you need to think about is who the person, in particular, is to you. Are they a close friend? A relative? The closer they are to you, the easier it may be to choose your words.
Because you know them better and the way their mind works, you can make sure that you say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.
If the person in question is a bit further removed from you, say a friend or a distant relative, then it can be useful to ask them questions and try and get a better idea of the situation.
However, you want to make sure that you don’t pry too much and that you avoid offending or hurting them in any way.
What Are They Going Through?
A lot of how you talk to this person may depend on what they’re going through and how they might respond to your words.
We all know that it’s like walking on eggshells when talking to someone in this situation, with fresh experiences affecting them with more raw emotion. Remember to be nice and sympathetic.
If the emotional pain that this person is going through is mental health-related, then you may want to avoid using clichés, such as, “Things are going to get better” and, “Cheer up”.
The best thing to do is listen and be tentative whilst they talk. Avoid creating any hurt feelings and try to replace them with positive feelings.
If the emotional issues that this person is currently having revolve around losing a loved one or a relative, then you need to have the goal of comforting the person you care about.
Use active listening to find out how they feel and ensure that they know things will get easier.
Body Language And Physical Affection
When going through a tough time, some people need a good hug to know that someone is there for them.
On top of active listening, some physical stimulation or reassurance can go a long way and will let the person know that you’re not just there to hear what they have to say. You’re there to help them and be supportive.
Sometimes you can talk to someone and hold their hand if you can see they’re becoming emotional. It’s bound to happen and you should prepare yourself for this situation.
Of course, don’t assume that they want to be touched, people deal with emotional pain in different ways.
Sometimes people will look for emotional responses from you, which can show them that you care.
These empathetic responses are good to show that you’re listening to the best of your ability and that you understand what they’re saying. Again, empathetic responses are good for you to show you want to help.
Finding A Silver Lining
In certain situations, you can try to show someone that what they’re feeling is simply temporary and that they’ll feel better soon.
Someone who is upset may not always be thinking rationally, so it can be helpful to remind them that things will get easier, especially if what they’re going through is sudden and has been sprung upon them, like loss of life or a break-up.
Bad feelings can often cloud the thought of good things being just around the corner, so make sure that you don’t push someone too hard when trying to remind them of the positives.
Just because you might be feeling a bit more optimistic, doesn’t mean that they want to think about it at this specific time.
Finding A Balance
Expanding on the subject of letting someone know that things will get better, but not pushing too hard, we move on to finding a balance.
This is easier said than done but if you can strike a balance between positivity and realism, then your words will go a long way.
Saying things like, “Things may be tough right now, but things will get better over time”, can give someone a realistic emotional target to work towards.
Another balance you have to find is to not ask too many questions. The last thing someone who is having emotional pain wants is for someone to poke into how they’re feeling too much.
This can cause them to think that someone is being too invasive, but can also bring up bad feelings and make them feel worse. Again, a lot of upset people won’t think straight and may become overwhelmed easily.
Try Not To Interrupt
When someone is pouring their feelings out, they may be talking about things that they may not have touched on before. So allowing them to breathe and take their time is important.
You may be the first person to have heard these words come out of their mouth, so it will be hard for them to say some things. Be mindful that they trust you, so make sure you wait your turn before talking back to them.
Keeping your replies short can help your friend or loved one to talk freely without too many interruptions. Every time you talk, you risk slowing down their momentum and making them nervous.
If they slow down, they may think twice about saying something or they may move on from the topic.
When it comes to knowing what to say to someone in emotional pain, it’s always best, to be honest, but be sure not to hurt them even further.
Depending on who you’re talking to, you’ll know how they act and how they may react to different things you say.
Just listen and be sympathetic, imagine how you would feel in their shoes. Ensure that they feel comfortable and take the time to choose your words properly.
You’ll find the right words to say, so don’t worry too much. Listen to your heart and be yourself.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: February 28, 2024