What Do You Say When Someone Rains Platitudes On Your Trauma?
It’s true — not everyone is gifted in the empathy department when it comes to giving someone what they need when they’re trying to express a bad feeling. Many of us tend to be uncomfortable in the face of other people’s pain or suffering. The knee-jerk response to hearing someone complain about something that we can’t actually help or fix is often to say something that we hope might change their perspective. However, as author Peg Streeb writes in Psychology Today, “Telling someone in pain that it’s really not so bad is undercutting and insulting.” The most empathic thing we can do when someone is expressing their struggle, is to simply listen. Or, as Streeb writes, “No one needs to feel grateful that what happened was only a category-three hurricane and not a tsunami.”
For those of us on the receiving end of such unhelpful comments, it might be empowering to have an arsenal of comebacks — er — things to say in reply. We asked NSFMG what they would say if someone told them that “it could always be worse”, and here are the lot of them:
Of course people do not necessarily mean to be hurtful when they say the “wrong” thing to us, and there isn’t a perfect script for what to say in difficult moments — on either end. At the very least, it can feel empowering to know how to react when someone diminishes our feelings. At the most, we can help prepare that person for the next time they try to support us, by explaining the ways in which we may feel more emotionally supported and how phrases like “could be worse” are not only unhelpful — but harmful.