We all like to play the psychologist when we notice someone is down, and we make comments that we hope would help them feel better. That’s actually a good attribute to have; the world would be a better place if we all showed concern for one another.
But there are moments when you can go a tad bit too far with the comments. Some people just want to be left alone with their agony, or just want you to be there. So shut up and let your presence bring all the comfort. On the contrary, there are also people who would love to have you console them.
If you’ve ever made the mistake of unknowingly hurting someone with your comments, you’d know that words can’t be taken back once said. Some people find it hard to let go of negative emotions, and you don’t want to be the source of theirs.
If you’re on the receiving end of any hurtful comments, you need to forgive whoever said them. Some people aren’t even aware they’ve been hurtful with their words. You need to understand them better and try not to let what they say affect you. If it does, you can walk up to them and let them know how you feel. If they persist, then walk away and bid them good riddance.
But what if you say the wrong things? What if your comments just make it worse? The only hair-pulling situation would be when you skip through this article without reading the “seemingly innocent comments”, and make a comment blunder. Don’t say we didn’t tell you, because we most definitely would say, “we told you so.”
Here are four of the seemingly innocent comments you should avoid making. This is according to Jillian Murphy, ND licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on mental health and body image issues. You’re in safe hands.
1. “I’m sorry, but you….”
Just end it with the sorry, and forget the but. Apologies don’t work that way. Why say you’re sorry if you’re going to make the person feel worse after? If you’re apologising, let it end that way rather than opening sore spots again. Even if you feel like you have something to say, adding a ‘but’ after a ‘sorry’ makes it seem like you don’t mean it.
Giving an apology means you’ve admitted your wrong. Saying ‘but’ afterwards means you’re transferring the blame back. It won’t be well received no matter how much you try. Own up to where you were wrong, no ‘buts.’
2. “You are so brave”
Saying someone is brave is marking them out of a crowd. It’s like you’re subconsciously calling them different because they’ve been through something like a chronic illness or disability. It could send the wrong message even if you don’t intend to. Murphy says:
“This might depend on what you were being brave about, but if it’s for just speaking your mind, or showing up in your body as is, or living your life on your own terms, there is the implication that you must feel shameful about who you are or that you don’t ‘fit in’ on some level.”
3. “You should have….”
Now you’re calling for punches! When you tell someone they ‘should have’ done something in another way, it passes the message that ‘they messed up’. They know they did, and that’s why they spoke to you in the first place. You can create time in the nearest future to bring up the topic of how they can make a better choice if such incident reoccurs. Then you can express yourself and give specific advice. But when they are down in the rut, it’s not a good time at all.
It hurts more when made after the fact. So you should stick with the present, rather than what has passed.
4. “I feel so bad for you”
Keep your feelings to yourself. It’s bad enough that you give away your ‘pity’ by your expression, saying it blatantly is worse. Someone going through something painful already feels cut off from the world. They feel alone already, and listening to the words, “I feel bad for you,” is like salt to their wound. Even if you mean it in a good way, in their state of mind they will take that comment in a hurtful way. Murphy says:
“This is a statement of sympathy that distances — as in ‘… you’re in a place I hope to never be. In contrast, something like ‘I feel for you’ is a statement of empathy, it puts you on the same team and brings you closer to the other.”