Empathy 101: How to Comfort Someone
Seeing someone cry or grieve is never an easy experience, especially if they are someone you love. In fact, you’ll most likely find yourself tongue-tied for words when interacting with a sad or hurting individual. What’s even worse is that you want to be there for them and show empathy; you just don’t know how to act or what to say.
So you usually end up sitting awkwardly, offering basic comfort that rarely ends up being effective. If you find yourself relating to this all too common situation — this article is for you. Keep reading to learn how to comfort someone even during the most difficult of events.
Can You Comfort Someone Over a Text?
To put it simply — yes, you can comfort people over a text. While doing so will rarely be as effective as in-person conversations, it can still be a reliable way to help those close to you. However, comforting someone over a text is much harder and requires a deep level of empathy and understanding.
Do you need some help? Here are a few tips that should help you comfort people over a text:
• Avoid Cliches: You’ll always be tempted to keep it simple and straightforward in order to avoid awkward conversations. Yet, that doesn’t mean you need to use texts like “everything happens for a reason” or “you’ll be fine”.
Not only can that show the other person that you don’t care enough about them, but it can also make you seem insensitive.
• Be Real: It’s important to remember that there is no magic formula that you can use to help your friends and family heal faster. That means you need to keep it real and say whatever you feel like, as long as it’s compassionate.
And, if you don’t know what to say, just talk about that. A simple “I don’t know what to say, but I understand and feel your pain” can go a long way.
• Offer Your Help: When offering your help, you need to be very specific. Saying something along the lines of “let me know if there’s anything you need” is not going to cut it.
Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what would make you more open to seeking help. But avoid being too pushy or overbearing, or it might lead them to do the opposite.
How to Comfort Someone: 7 Ways
It’s not always easy to console someone. More often than not, you’ll be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and somehow making the situation worse. Fortunately, there are a couple of tried and true methods you can use to comfort someone close to you.
1. Acknowledge Their Feelings
Regardless of who you are trying to comfort, it is essential to acknowledge their feelings. That way, you will avoid misinterpreting the situation while also showing the other person that you care about their feelings.
All you need to do is ask them how they feel and pay close attention to their response. Then, you can respond with a simple “I hear you and I truly understand your pain.”
But be careful not to invalidate their feelings. It can be extremely easy to disagree with someone’s emotions if you don’t have the full context. Try to be respectful and comforting no matter what.
2. Affirm Their Feelings
It is not enough to acknowledge their feelings; you’ll need to affirm them too. That will give you more insight and help you relate better to the situation.
However, try to avoid turning the conversation onto you and, instead, try to use your personal experiences as a mere example. Don’t compare your past events with theirs in order to minimize their suffering; simply focus on the other person’s story.
For instance, you could say: “I understand that you are upset. I was also feeling depressed when something similar happened to me. Do you want to talk about it?”
3. Be There for Them
While cheering up your friend can sound like a good idea, it can be hard to do so when they are still processing the trauma. As a matter of fact, people can rarely focus on the future shortly after painful events.
Reacting with “you’ll feel better,” “don’t cry”, or “let’s put a smile on your face” will come across as insensitive. Try to be a good listener and reassure the other person by saying, “don’t worry, I’m here for you.”
4. Offer Physical Affection If Appropriate
Most people don’t want to open up and share their feelings when going through painful experiences. If that’s the case for your friend, partner, or family member, you should instead offer physical affection. Keep in mind that it should match the level of intimacy you both share normally.
In other words, if you’ve never hugged that person, it’s best to just place your hand on their shoulder. On the other hand, if the other person is your lover, cuddles or hugs are more than appropriate. But always read the room and back off if the other party feels uncomfortable.
5. Make Them Feel Special
Everybody wants to feel like they are special and important to someone. So why not let your friend, partner, or family member know how much they mean to you?
Not only can that prove to people that their existence is meaningful, but it can also comfort them during painful events. Phrases like “you mean so much to me, I couldn’t bear to lose you” can have a positive effect on anyone.
6. Give Positive Reinforcement
According to research, it takes three positive experiences to balance out one negative event. That’s because negativity impacts people much more than positivity, making them unhappy for prolonged periods of time.
As a result, you should give positive reinforcement to those who are going through saddening ordeals. For that, you can rely on phrases like “you are a great person, and you don’t deserve this.” Or, “you are strong, and you are going to make it through.”
7. Keep Reaching Out
Usually, it takes a considerable amount of time to process and recover from a tragedy. Therefore, you should make a point to check in regularly. But make sure not to overdo it. As a rule of thumb, you should reach out as often as you would normally, so it won’t seem that you are doing it out of pity.