Do any of the conversations below sound like ones you have in your own head?
“I’m feeling emotionally beaten up with the changes at work. But, I keep reminding myself that God is at work, even when I don’t see it.”
Or, “My mom is so hard to be around; she’s so negative and makes comments that are so rude. I feel bad because I know I shouldn’t feel that way.”
Or, “I’ve been so sad about the loss of my father-in-law. I was very close to him and I really miss him. At least I had him for as long as I did.”
If any of these sound familiar, please know you’re not alone. When dealing with feelings, most of us say things at times that sound logical, cheerful or spiritual. However, doing so can be very hurtful rather than helpful.
When talking about feelings, there are 3 dangerous words or phrases to eliminate:
- But (For example: “That sounds hard but you can just…”)
- Shouldn’t (Example: “You shouldn’t let that bother you. You should just…”)
- At least (Example: “I’m so sorry. At least you still have another…”)
If your intention is to be supportive, encouraging and helpful to anyone, make space for the feelings to be felt (and expressed). After listening to the feelings, give them what they need; validate those feelings. Respond in a way that shows understanding of why they’d feel what they’re feeling.
If you want to be truly helpful, try a simple statement like one of these; “That sounds hard. I completely understand why you’d feel that way” or, “It makes sense that you’d feel the way you’re feeling about this. I think anyone in the same situation would feel exactly the same way.”
Validating feelings is like giving a valuable gift – and even though it’ll cost you nothing, you’ll likely be surprised at how helpful it is for the recipient.