What makes it even worse…
‘Give me a smile.’
These are nice phrases, aren’t they?
They are full of desire to support, to help, to soothe and ease the suffering.
Surprisingly, they are not helpful. What’s more, they make it even worse!
I’m sure you’ve heard at least one of these phrases a few times in your life.
I invite you to remember a moment when you were sharing a bad, unpleasant, painful experience with a close, trusted person. Go into the memory, remember the situation, your feelings. See yourself sitting there with your shoulders hunched, brows knitted, maybe you were crying too. How did it feel when you heard ‘Calm down.’
I personally get this tight knot in my throat. I feel confused. I feel that I’m overreacting and the way I react to a situation is childish and wrong. I also notice anger starting to simmer in my chest.
How on earth am I supposed to calm down in one instant when I’m having this turmoil of unpleasant feelings inside me. It’s impossible! There’s no way I’m going to feel better from hearing the words ‘Calm down.’
Life is a roller coaster, we all know that. One day is awesome and another is a total disaster. This is normal. Our emotional spectrum is as varied as a roller coaster of life. We feel sad, we feel happy, we feel angry and sometimes full of inner peace. This is normal too! The unpleasant feelings are to be felt and acknowledged same as the high-vibration ones. If you are alive, it’s indispensable to feel frustrated, hurt, agitated, furious, anxious, miserable and so on. These are just emotions that arise as a result of certain experiences in life. There’s nothing wrong with you when you feel them. They are just another kind of emotions you get to feel. There’s a much better way of facing these emotions rather than saying ‘Don’t Cry/ Calm down/ Be happy.’
I can explain why we default to saying ‘Calm down, etc..’ when having somebody cry on our shoulder, but that’s a whole topic in itself, so I won’t go there now. Instead, I’d like to tell you how to stop making it even worse for a person who’s suffering and sharing their troubles with you. Here are a few ways that will make it easier both for you and for them:
- Listen without any interruptions and comments. Just listen. Yes, I know it sounds weird but as a volunteer on a support line, believe me, I know what I’m saying. In most cases you sitting there quiet and just listening is way more helpful than any words you can utter in that moment.
- If you want to say something but nothing comes to mind except ‘Don’t cry’, it’s better to be honest and say: ‘I really don’t know what to say. I want to help you somehow and I want to support you but I don’t know what to say. I’m here for you.’
- Don’t rush to give advice and suggestions. It’s always better to ask first: ‘I’d like to share something with you that might be helpful, are you ok to hear it now or would you like to hear it later?’. You can also ask – ‘Would you like to hear some advice from me or would it be better if I continue listening to you?’
- If you don’t know how to behave, what to do or say when somebody is feeling a lot in the moment, just ask: ‘What would feel most helpful to you right now? What can I do for you? Would you like a hug, a glass of water or would you like me to leave you alone?’ Remember, it’s always good to ask!
Sometimes it happens that you’re not in the state to listen to somebody. That’s totally normal. You’re not required to be there for them on any given moment. If you don’t have the emotional resource to listen to somebody and be there for them – just be honest with yourself and the person who came to you for support. You can say: ‘I really want to be here for you, have all my attention on you and really listen to what you’re saying. At the moment, I feel I’m not in the state where I can do that for you and I don’t want to sit here and wish for you to calm down, stop talking as soon as possible and leave me alone. Is it ok if we talk later today or tomorrow?’ Believe me, this would be much better than just saying ‘Calm down’ and hoping the conversation is over as soon as possible. Remember that in order to help and take care of somebody, you have to feel good and be in a robust state yourself. Otherwise, you’ll suffer and the person won’t receive the support they are hoping to get.
In case you are like me and you get annoyed when told not to cry and calm down, give the following suggestions a try and see how it goes for you:
- Let your close person know that you want to talk it through, you just want to share without being interrupted, asked questions, given advice. ‘Please just be here with me and listen to me, that’s all I need’. No matter how close you’re with that person, how long you’ve known each other, they are not supposed to know what you really need and what you find helpful in this very moment. Giving some ‘instructions’ makes it easier for both of you.
- There are moments when sharing the details of what you’re going through is not exactly what you need. However, you still want to receive some love, support and understanding and rightfully so. Instead of going into the details, ask your trusted person for what you need – ‘Please hug me/ Go for a walk with me/ Tell me that you love me/ Could you please make some tea for me?’
Ask for what you want to receive and leave the details for later. Share them when you feel ready.
I’m curious to know how does it make you feel when somebody tells you to stop crying or calm down? How do you react to that? What would feel more caring and helpful to you? I’d be happy to find out what works for you! Please send me a line in a ‘Leave Us a Message’ box on the home page or text me on 226-840-2004.
Express your emotions through movement when you cannot find words to describe how you feel.