Helpful Vs. Hurtful

Helpful vs. Hurtful Responses

When someone is struggling...


What you are REALLY saying:


Helpful - Hopeful


It’s all in your head;

It’s just a phase

Invalidates their experience;

implies they are manipulative, exaggerating, looking for attention

I know what you are going through is real

We ALL go through times like this

I know! Me too…it’s just like the time I ….

Well-meaning, but does not convey true understanding; generalizes/ minimizes their experience

Makes it about you (conversational narcissism)

I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help

You have so much to live for!

(Why would you want to die?)

Well-meaning, but says they have no right to their feelings; creates guilt that they are ungrateful for what they do have

You are important to me. Your life is important to me

Get over it...look on the bright side!

Well at least….


Creates a sense of inadequacy

Comparisons to others who have it worse create guilt

Even though it might be hard to see now, things can get better; the way you are feeling will change

You’ll be fine. Stop worrying!

(Calm down!)

Commands NEVER help. Only creates anger/doubling down.

You are not alone in this.

I’m here for you.

You should just…..(advice)

Avoid “shoulds”

(ONLY offer advice if asked)

Talk to me.

I’m listening.

What’s wrong with you? Shouldn’t you be over it by now?

Increases their sense of failure. There is NO timeline for human emotion, regardless of the situation

I’m here for you.

We’ll get through this together

What do you want ME to do? I can’t do anything about your situation

Reinforces hopeless/helpless feelings; tells them they are a burden; makes it about you

Tell me what I can do NOW to help you.

How about we….