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What to say to a friend who is down in the dumps

What to say to a friend who is down in the dumps By Erin Kyna, Erin Kyna Life Coaching  We’ve all been there – on the receiving end of someone’s well intended, but painfully...

What to say to a friend who is down in the dumps

What to say to a friend who is down in the dumps
By Erin Kyna, Erin Kyna Life Coaching 

We’ve all been there – on the receiving end of someone’s well intended, but painfully inappropriate comments.

“You’ll get over it”, “Calm down”, “You’ll be fine”, “Go punch an indoor plant” (seriously – it happened).

As awkward as it can be hearing these comments in your time of need, it’s equally awkward GIVING THEM.

At some point, we have all tried our best to make someone feel better and then cringed as soon as we spoke. Oops (or insert various other four letter words). That didn’t help, I only made things worse. This awkward silence is killing me!

It’s gut wrenching seeing a loved one in pain. What’s equally gut wrenching is having no idea what to say, at all!

Generally we only have our own experience to refer to when thinking of what to say. Or worse yet, we have absolutely no reference point and have NO idea what to say. This is why we end up saying doozies like “everything happens for a reason”, or my favourite “it could be worse” (insert frustrated emoji face).

Ready for a harsh truth? Right then, in that moment, nothing could possibly be worse. It is, without a doubt, the worse thing that has ever happened to mankind. Ever.

When our friend is down in the dumps, we try our best to give them what we think they need. Most of the time, we are actually giving them what we, ourselves, would want to receive.

Often in our attempt to make things better for them, by saying something ‘nice’ (for the sake of saying it), we unconsciously invalidate their feelings or make them feel like this is their fault, and that feels like blame. No one likes feeling blamed.

We never want to see someone we care about in pain and we do our best to take their pain away for them. But ultimately this is just a band-aid solution. In taking away their pain, we are also robbing them of an opportunity to learn from the situation because they haven’t experienced the full capacity of what is happening. For each of us, our pain is also our opportunity for growth. We can choose to look at it as a problem or an opportunity. If you solve the problem for them, you take away their chance to work it out for themselves.

Don’t worry, I have a solution for you. But before I give you my ‘golden phrase’ of what to say to a friend who is down in the dumps, I’d like you to give yourself a pat on the back. Because you care enough to try. Because you have reached out to make a difference.

Now, how can we best spend our energy when our friends are feeling down? Here is the most powerful phrase you can offer when someone is in the dumps:

“How can I best support you?”

This magic little phrase puts the ball back in their court. It means you offer them an opportunity to take responsibility for themselves. They can then tell you exactly what they need.

Maybe they need to vent and just want to feel heard.

Maybe they need a cuddle.

Maybe you could take their kids to the park and give them an hour of ‘me’ time.

Maybe they want your help in looking for a solution.

When you offer them the opportunity to answer this, it means that whatever energy is poured into the situation is well spent. They get exactly what they need and there is no awkwardness and no misguided attempts to make someone feel better.

Offer your support to your loved ones and see how it magically transforms the situation. If you see someone stressed, anxious, upset, even in times of positivity and celebration, ask them how you can best support them.

And don’t underestimate the power of being an unbiased listener. The skill of listening is one worth mastering: don’t interrupt or finish their sentences because you think you know where they are going. Give them your full attention and let go of your agenda or what you want to say. Most people when listening are thinking about themselves and waiting for the next gap in the conversation so they can turn it back to themselves.

I challenge you to just listen in your next conversation. Notice how many times you think about yourself or what you can say to contribute. Just stop in that moment and give the gift of listening. Do not be afraid of silence. Often that is where the answer lies.


Erin is an accredited Life Coach. Erin says, "it is my passion to help people transform their lives. Find that sense of who you really are and to live that proudly. I want you to radiate who you are out of every cell of your being. I want to have passion and purpose about all that you do. I want you to smile, just because. I coach clients around the world to build a solid foundation on which to grow." Visit Erin's website to find out more.

Nourish Melbourne is also proud to have Erin Kyna Life Coaching a part of the Nourish Melbourne Community and Membership Program. Nourish Melbourne Members receive $100 off Erin's three-month coaching package, plus a free 30 minute consultation.