Finding the right words to console someone is always hard. It really doesn’t matter what’s going on with your loved one – the bottom line is that they’re in emotional pain.
So what exactly should you do about it? Should you give them space? Should you push them to talk about their feelings?
How to comfort someone? What if you say the wrong thing and break their heart even more? What if you leave them be and give them the impression that you were not there for them?
What if you do too much? What if you don’t do enough?
The questions are endless, but the good news is that you’ll find all the answers you need right here.
How To Comfort Someone In 11 Ways
Here is a step-by-step guide to comforting a loved one:
1. Break the ice
First of all, you have to learn how to start the conversation properly. Of course, it all depends on who you are talking to.
Some people will come to you directly and ask for your help. They will tell you that they’re having a hard time and ask you to hear them out or give them a hand.
However, this is quite rare. Most people who desperately need help will never ask for it outright.
That is exactly why you have to be the one to break the ice.
You can start with some small talk. This is the most effective way to help the other person relax a bit.
After that, when you see that things are going well, it’s safe to start tackling the most important topic. Just start by telling them that you know what happened (whatever this applies to – to a breakup or to losing a loved one) and that you were wondering how they’ve been.
Also, if you see that you’re having a hard time breaking the ice, you can literally announce your follow-up conversation. Just tell them that you want to talk to them and ask them if that would be okay.
2. Let them talk
When you’re dealing with someone who’s grieving, you have to find out how this person feels. That’s exactly why you must let them talk.
I know you probably have a lot to say regarding the topic, but please, don’t interrupt them. This is especially true for people who have a habit of repressing their emotions.
I’ll be honest with you: you’ll have a hard time getting them to open up. They’re probably scared to even start getting everything off their chest.
So, if you manage to get them to talk, just let them. There is no need for you to agree or disagree with them.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not here to give them your opinion unless they ask for advice.
What will you do if they start crying and sobbing? Well, the worst thing you can do is freak out.
Don’t tell them to calm down and to stop crying, either. I know you mean well but trust me – it’s better to let them cry their heart out if that’s how they feel. It will make them feel better afterward, and they’ll appreciate your presence.
How to do it:
But how do you let someone who doesn’t want to open up talk? Well, the trick is to ask them open-ended questions.
For example, if you ask them: How do you feel?, and they say just Fine, don’t leave it at that. Instead, say something like, Can you please be more specific?, or I saw that post on your social media the other day. How did you feel when you posted it?
You can even make an imaginary situation up. Tell them that your best friend is going through a similar situation and you are looking for ways to help them.
3. Don’t make it about yourself
You know what’s worst about people trying to comfort others? Making everything about them and their own experiences!
Don’t get me wrong – I know you’re not doing it on purpose. In fact, I have to admit that once upon a time, I was that person as well.
My best friend or a family member would tell me that they were going through a tough time. And what would I do? I would mention when I went going through a similarly difficult time.
Let’s get one thing straight: I wasn’t doing it to steal the spotlight. I wasn’t doing it to invalidate their feelings.
On the contrary, I thought I was helping them out.
Did you break up with your partner? I’ve been there, and I survived, and so will you. I was doing it to let them know that they weren’t alone.
But now I’m aware that it’s the wrong approach.
Why is it wrong?
Well, first of all, you’re the one comforting them. This might sound harsh, but they don’t give a damn about how you felt years ago.
Besides, they won’t understand why you’re doing it. They’ll think that you’re a selfish, self-centered person who can’t spend a minute talking about someone else’s feelings.
4. Validate their feelings
This is something you have to keep in mind when you’re figuring out how to comfort someone: we are all different. This means that we deal with different situations in different ways. And, of course, we show different emotions while doing so.
Why am I telling you this? Well, maybe your friend is going through something that wouldn’t be such a big deal for you.
They got fired from a lousy job or ended a toxic relationship that wasn’t enough for them anyway. I mean, you and I both know that it’s not the end of the world.
Why is it wrong?
But hey, you won’t tell them that there are children in Africa starving right now. Yes, that fact is true.
And according to major tragedies, their problem really isn’t that serious. However, their pain is consuming them right now, and whatever they’re going through, it’s the most painful and most significant thing in the world to them now.
You’re not here to decide if something is worth the tears and the pain or not. You’re here to provide support.
Besides, you’re not validating their situation, but you must validate their feelings. They have full right to feel this way, and you’re not supposed to judge them.
5. Don’t lie to them
Look, nobody wants to hear empty phrases, platitudes, and cliches. I know that you want to make your person feel better, but there is absolutely no point in lying to them.
First of all, they’ll see right through you. I mean, they’re in pain; they haven’t magically lost their intelligence.
Consequently, they won’t come to you ever again once they realize that you’re not being honest.
However, there is an even more important reason why deceiving someone you’re comforting is bad. You’re giving them false hope.
If you succeed in convincing them that their ex will come back or that their boss will ask them to return to work, you’ll get them to calm down temporarily. Nevertheless, the harsh reality will still hit them sooner or later.
Sadly, they have to face the truth, as much as it hurts them to do so.
6. But don’t be pessimistic either
However, you shouldn’t be too pessimistic either. Make sure they know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if they don’t see it yet.
Some problems don’t have a solution – we’re all aware of that. However, you’ll never say something like that directly.
Even if your friend has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s not like you would tell them that they can’t be helped and that they will die, no matter what. Even in the worst-case scenario, you have to find a ray of sunshine.
But the trick is to find a balance and not lie just to comfort them. Be optimistic but do your best to be realistic at the same time!
The best way to raise your optimism is to practice positive affirmations. Make them repeat after you, and after a while, they will start feeling better.
7. Give them your undivided attention
When you’re talking to someone, they should be the center of your attention. It’s rude to text in the middle of a conversation or just pointlessly stare at your phone, scrolling through apps and social media.
You might not even be aware you’re doing it, but trust me, sometimes we’re all guilty of this.
As I said, this behavior is unacceptable, even if you’re in the middle of unimportant small talk with someone you see every day, let alone when you’re comforting someone.
Time and place
So before you ask yourself how to comfort someone, it would be great if you could pick a suitable time and place to do this.
Try finding a private place where you two can be alone. You don’t want anyone distracting you. If you do get a phone call, don’t pick up!
Besides, you don’t want to have this talk in a coffee shop or a mall full of people. I’m sure that would make your friend even more uncomfortable.
The timing is also significant. Don’t invite them to meet up if you know that you have to go soon or something like that.
You don’t know for how long this is going to take, so it’s better to have all the time in the world at your disposal.
8. Offer a solution
After the initial phases of this process have passed, it’s time for some action. Your friend may ask for your advice.
In that case, you should definitely offer them a solution. This advice can be based on your personal experience – this is when it’s okay to mention yourself (but be careful not to make it about yourself!).
But what if they don’t ask for advice? Well, it all depends on who you’re talking to.
If you’re comforting a young person, you can definitely share some of your wisdom. If this is your significant other, it’s also acceptable to offer them a solution.
The same goes for good friends.
But what if you’re comforting a coworker or someone you’re not close friends with? Well, in that case, I think it’s better to restrain from giving unsolicited advice.
After all, you don’t know this person’s circumstances, and there is no point in diving in too deep.
9. But don’t push them too hard
When you’re comforting someone, it’s important to give them space. You’re there for them, but you can’t be breathing down their neck.
One of the worst things you can do is push them too hard to do what you think is right.
You know very well that they should cry. You’re aware that repressing their emotions is bad for their mental health.
However, they’re simply not ready.
The same goes for the solutions you offered. You know that listening to your advice would solve their problem, boost their self-esteem, and help them heal.
Nevertheless, if they don’t want to take it, it’s their right. Remember – you’re their emotional support, nothing more.
10. Speak through your body language
Keep in mind that your body language often speaks louder than words.
When you make eye contact, make sure you show understanding. Pay attention to what your friend is saying – don’t just stare at them blankly.
Most importantly, offer physical affection. If we’re talking about a close friend, significant other, or a family member, you’ll just hug them, no questions asked.
But if this is someone you’re not that close tp, you should always ask if they want to be held or hugged. Some people don’t enjoy physical affection when they’re in emotional pain, and that’s perfectly okay.
11. Suggest professional help
There are some situations where you just can’t help your friend as much as you try. Maybe they’re feeling depressed, and their sadness is out of your area of expertise.
When that happens, your job is to offer to take them to a mental health professional whose job is to help others.
Just be careful when making this suggestion! You don’t want them thinking that you think they’re crazy or anything like that.
You can offer a therapist from your own experience – just to show them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking professional help.
12. Tell them they can count on you
How do you end the conversation? The most important thing is to tell them that they can count on you, no matter what.
They can call you in the middle of the night if they just need someone to listen to them. You’ll be around if they need a shoulder to cry on. You’ll be there if they need advice and if they’re looking for solutions.
The bottom line is that you’re not going anywhere.
How To Comfort Someone Over Text In 3 Ways
I have to be honest: sending someone who’s in pain a text message is probably one of the worst ways to comfort them. I mean, if we’re talking about someone close to you, you should at least make an effort to see them in person.
And if that’s not possible, you’ll call them, if nothing else. However, sometimes the circumstances are that you have no other choice but to text them.
In that case, this is exactly what you should do
1. Tell them that you want to call
If you’re texting someone, the important thing is to tell them that you meant to call them and that you intended to meet in person. What matters is that they know that sending them a text message wasn’t your first choice.
But just because you can’t call them now doesn’t mean that you won’t. Ask them when they’re available to talk and call them when you agree.
2. Don’t be too short
How to comfort someone: Well, you wouldn’t send them a short text that implies that you can’t wait to get rid of them.
The last thing you want them to think is that you’re doing this just because you have to, not because you truly want to comfort them.
3. But don’t make them even sadder, either
However, is an essay-long paragraph okay? Why not? But there is just one condition.
Don’t send it if you’ll make the situation even sadder. This is not the time to show off your writing skills. You’re not a famous author with the ability to always bring tears to your readers’ eyes.
Remember: your primary intention is to make the person on the other side of the screen feel better. Everything else is completely irrelevant.
How To Comfort Someone Who Lost A Loved One In 4 Ways
Comforting someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one is extremely difficult. But you have to forget your pain and discomfort and find a way to make your person feel better.
1. Make it personal
Every pain is different, and every loss is different too. So please, don’t try comforting someone by saying empty cliches.
When you’re telling your condolences, make it personal so the other person sees that you’re really addressing them!
2. Don’t try erasing their pain
Here’s the awful truth: the pain of losing someone you loved forever will never disappear. You just learn to live with it.
So don’t try doing the impossible. Don’t put effort into erasing your friend’s pain because you won’t succeed in doing so.
In fact, they’ll just feel pressured to pretend that they’re better, even if they aren’t.
3. Follow their lead
Remember: your goal is to make this person feel as comfortable as possible. That’s why you should follow their lead and do whatever they feel like doing.
If they want to talk about the deceased, give them the chance to do so. If they want to watch a movie and act as if nothing happened, you should allow that too (even though we both know it’s not the healthiest coping mechanism).
Also, be careful when it comes to spiritual issues. Don’t talk about heaven or God if you know they aren’t religious.
4. Be at their disposal
Do they need something? How can you help them? These are crucial questions for ending the conversation.
Keep in mind that this person is mourning. The last thing they feel like doing is cooking, cleaning, engaging in self-care, and stuff like that.
But at the same time, they still need to eat, and they need their garbage taken out. If you don’t know how to help them, stop by and bring a hot cooked meal or tidy up around the house.
You can also help them with the paperwork and other technical issues following someone’s death.
For you, this doesn’t mean much. But trust me that they will never forget it!
What Should I Say To Comfort Someone?
Here are some of the best lines to say when you’re wondering how to comfort someone:
- “I’m here for you.”
- “I’m so sorry for everything that happened.”
- “You can count on my emotional support.”
- “What can I do to make you feel better?”
- “This pain will go away sooner or later.”
To Wrap Up:
I would love it if you never had to wonder how to comfort someone. However, life is tough, and sadly, you’ll need these skills sooner or later.
I’m not saying that these techniques are magical. They won’t erase someone’s pain in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, they will definitely help you help others.