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What to say to someone who is going through a tough time

When someone is feeling down or going through a tough time it is important to take them seriously. Give the person space to explain what they are going through. Let them tell you how they feel.

Avoid rejecting the person's experiences and feelings. Try not to lessen how they feel. Don't try to change how they feel or their point of view.

Don't tell the person they're wrong

If someone is talking about their experiences and emotions, there are no wrongs. You may not experience the same situation in the same way. You are not listening if you say things like: "you shouldn't feel this bad" or "you're over-reacting" or "it's not as bad as you think."

Don't talk too much

Try to hold back from offering too much advice or your own experiences. Try and listen to their understanding and experience. Don't try to change your friend's mind. The first step is to listen.

Don't try to solve their problem

It can be more important to know that someone else has heard you than to have someone suggest solutions.

Ask your friend if they know what they want to do next. We often have the resources within ourselves which are just waiting to be tapped into.

Examples of what not to say:

  • "It's not that bad."
  • "Things will get better."
  • "How could you be so selfish?"

These reactions can result in the person feeling misunderstood and more isolated than ever.

Instead, listen to what they are going through:

  • "Can you tell me more about what's going on for you?"
  • "If you want to tell me more, I'm here to listen."
  • "It sounds like you're dealing with a lot at the moment."
  • "I'm really sorry to hear that you're feeling like this right now."

Related topics

Being a good listener

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
Next review due: 23/09/2021

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