When someone is experiencing intense emotional pain, it can be difficult to know how to comfort them. It is critical that you maintain your own calm and positivity. Whether someone has recently been in an accident, received heartbreaking news, or has lost control of their emotions as a result of ongoing stress in their lives, there are some basic steps to take when attempting to console someone.
Method 1: Saying the Correct Things When Someone Is Anxious
1. Tell the person how much you care. When someone is in emotional pain, there is no “right” thing to say – especially when there is a perfectly reasonable reason for their suffering. Choose your words, your tone of voice, and your demeanour to convey that you care. At the most basic level, this necessitates that you behave as normally as possible. Additionally, only say things that are sympathetic, nonjudgmental, patient, and accepting. These are frequently simple, open-ended statements designed to encourage the other person to open up.
Another thing you could say is, “I’m so sorry about .” Don’t be afraid to bring up something painful; if they’re upset, they’re already thinking about it.
Say things like, “It’s perfectly okay to cry.”
2. Avoid exaggerated joy. There will come a time when lighthearted jokes and optimistic statements are appropriate. When someone is deeply distressed or in a state of intense sorrow, any cheeriness may sound hollow. Worse, anything that appears insincere may appear to diminish the gravity of what they are feeling. Respect how the person is feeling by not dismissing their current emotions.
Avoid saying things like, “Look on the bright side,” or otherwise attempting to put a positive spin on something that is clearly causing someone a lot of pain.
To summarise, don’t say anything just to “make someone happy.” Allow someone who is experiencing emotional distress to express any feelings of despair or anger rather than suppressing them.
With statements like, “You’re not alone in this.” concentrate on conveying the fact that you are simply there for them. I’m right here beside you.”
3. Be aware of the situation. You should avoid saying things that may come across as insensitive depending on why someone is upset. Never, for example, say anything along the lines of “It was God’s will.” Such a statement does nothing to address how someone is feeling.
When in doubt, make sure that what you’re saying does not minimise or invalidate another person’s suffering.
Even statements that are “true” must be avoided at times. For example, you do not want to tell a mother who has just miscarried that she might be able to have another child. While this is correct, it ignores her current grief over the loss of her pregnancy.
4. Allow them to do the talking by opening the door. They should talk about how they’re feeling at some point. You may even have to steer them in the right direction. Say something like, “I know it may hurt to talk about, but you should feel free to talk to me about__________, now or whenever you want.” Feel free to do this whenever they’ve calmed down – even after a traumatic incident.
Avoid equating your own experiences to what others are going through. Even if you have had a similar experience, do not say, “I know how you feel.” Formal paraphrase Instead, say something like, “I understand how much meant to you.”
When you’re at a loss for words, say something like, “I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I care about you and want to help.”
You can also say, “I’m not sure what to say, but I’m here for you and always willing to listen.”
5. Make an offer to follow up. Often, people will receive a lot of emotional support right after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, this support is frequently ephemeral. Indicate that your assistance will continue by saying something like, “Hey, can I call you back in a few weeks to see how you’re doing?”
Do not be concerned that you are bringing up a topic that someone may not want to discuss. They will say that if they do not want to. But, more than likely, they must. In any case, knowing that you will continue to support me will be reassuring.
Method 2: Assisting Someone Suffering from Emotional Difficulties
1. Don’t be in a hurry to make your next move. Someone who is experiencing emotional distress may find it difficult to make decisions, or may simply be unsure of how to act or what to do. This is a sign of vulnerability and is a completely natural reaction to stress. They might not even want to talk about what happened, and you shouldn’t force them to unless someone else’s safety or well-being is at stake.
If someone insists on having space, give them some. Inform them that you will contact them again in a few days. Let them know they can contact you whenever they want and that you’re available to spend time with them whenever they want.
2. Keep in touch. Don’t be overbearing, but make sure you act in a way that shows them you’re still thinking about them and that their well-being is important to you. If you haven’t heard from them in a week, call or send a card. Avoid sending condolences via text, email, or social media, as these methods of communication are informal and impersonal.
Don’t avoid or ignore someone because you’re uncomfortable with what they’re going through or because you don’t know how to approach them. If you are unsure what to do or say, express your condolences and inquire if there is anything you can do.
3. Accept their silence as a compliment. Don’t be bothered if they appear to want you around but aren’t saying much. Don’t let your nervousness cause you to talk nonstop. Remember that they might just want your company. Feel free to inquire about how they are feeling or what they are thinking. If they are constantly thinking about what happened, they will most likely need to talk about it in order to release any pent-up emotions.
If you happen to run into someone at a social function, avoid asking them how they are. While you should encourage them to express their emotions, do so in a setting where you have privacy and can give them your undivided attention.
4. Help with basic necessities. Some people will be physically exhausted or depressed as a result of a traumatic event. They may sleep more than usual and struggle to complete daily tasks. Do a load of laundry or clean the dishes to help out. But be careful not to overburden them, as this may impede their recovery or make them feel pitied. People must feel capable of caring for themselves, even if they require some assistance.
5. Assist them in making plans for the future. When the person appears to be ready, inquire as to what they intend to do. Don’t be surprised if they don’t know or are unwilling to discuss it. Provide some possible paths for them to take while offering to assist them in doing so. Even when making recommendations, try to listen more than you speak and only offer actionable advice.
Any suggestions you make should be based on what they have said.
A good place to start is by asking them who and what they think might be of assistance.
Keep an eye out for signs of worsening emotional distress.
If you suspect they require professional assistance, encourage them to seek it. Prepare for this by having contact information for relevant people and organisations on hand.
Method 3: Assisting a Stranger Who Is Emotionally Troubled
1. As you approach someone, consider the situation. When you don’t know why someone is upset, make sure no one is in danger before attempting to calm them down. The best way to obtain the necessary information is to inquire as to what has occurred. However, before you do so, assess the situation to ensure that you can approach someone safely.
First, take a look around. Are there any other people nearby who might know what happened or who might be able to help? Are there any obvious hazards in the area?
2. Offer to assist. Approach the person and say you’re here to help. If you don’t know who the person is, introduce yourself by saying something like, “Hey, my name is ____, and I’m here to help.” If they don’t respond, continue by asking if you can join them and starting to do so. As you sit down, say something like, “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to sit with you for a while.”
If knowledge of your profession could help a stranger, for example, if you’re a teacher, doctor, or firefighter, you should mention it.
Avoid providing general reassurance. Though it may be tempting to say something like “everything will be fine,” doing so ignores how the person is feeling at the time. Such statements may even make someone who is upset less willing to accept consolation.
3. Inquire about what you can do to assist. It is critical to determine what occurred. Keep your questions simple but direct, and try to figure out what happened. Specific things to look for include any signs that a person is suffering from more than just emotional distress, as well as what the person requires. Recognize that you are unlikely to be able to resolve the situations. Your primary focus should be on calming them down and ensuring that they receive additional assistance if necessary.
Speak slowly, calmly, and softly. Avoid speaking in hushed tones or shouting.
If the person perceives you as a threat or acts aggressively toward you, be prepared to back off. If either of these things happens, make sure that authorities are on their way, but keep a safe distance.
4. Listen, listen, and listen some more. Listening intently to someone, especially when they are upset, requires patience and care. Holding eye contact may be inappropriate for someone who is upset because they may feel vulnerable or embarrassed. Sit quietly with someone, preferably beside them. Maintain a relaxed body language and avoid moving around.
While the other person is speaking, provide nonverbal encouragement by nodding and making affirmative sounds to show that you’re paying attention.
Do not argue with what someone who is upset is saying. They may be saying things that don’t make sense or are even offensive.
Remember that your goal is to console the person, not to converse with them, and that their brain is most likely flooded with emotion.
5. Maintain your composure. A person in intense emotional distress will also experience changes in their body chemistry that prepare them to fight or flee. They will be jumpy, easily irritated, and confused, in addition to being extremely sad. They will have difficulty listening and concentrating, and they may not understand what you are saying. As a result, concentrate on conveying a sense of security and a calm environment.
Do not argue with the person if they insist on taking a drastic or unreasonable action. Rather, propose alternatives and otherwise try to divert their attention away from any potentially dangerous course of action.
6. Use humour with caution. While humour and lightheartedness can help people cope, they may not be appropriate when someone is in a state of deep distress. Allow the person who is in pain to take the lead; if they make a joke about a funny side effect of something that has happened, join them in their laughter.
Humor can be especially useful in stressful situations, where a brief break can help someone relax. Before you try to lighten the mood, make sure you know the person who is upset will appreciate any humour.
7. Keep an eye on the person until they calm down. As long as the person is not injured or in danger in any other way, they may simply need to relax. For example, if someone receives traumatic news or witnesses a traumatic event, they may experience extreme emotional distress but are not in any medical danger. In these cases, an ambulance is unnecessary and may add to the distress. Continue to offer emotional support while you wait for the person to be able to speak with you or someone else about what to do.
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