What to Say (and Not Say) to Someone In Times of Trouble

If you’ve read any of my blogs you already know that I’ve been on a mission the last several years to slow down, to become more in touch with what’s happening around me, and to be intentional about my relationships. 

There’s another area of my life I’ve been focusing on thinking before I speak. While I haven’t fully mastered putting thought into what I say 100% of the time, becoming a life coach and helping clients work through difficult situations has helped me considerably. I’m not gonna lie though- it’s a bit frustrating recalling all the times I was impulsive with my words. 

For example, several years ago I wrote a blog about putting my foot in my mouth. In it, I told the story of, not once, but twice asking women “when are you due?” only to find out that they weren’t even pregnant. Talk about embarrassing; it’s still incredibly hard to write about it to this day! 

As a life coach, I know the importance of listening first and speaking second. That’s why I was so intrigued when I read something recently about things to say to a friend in times of trouble. Reading it couldn’t have been more timely! I’ve been faced with the dilemma of “what to say” a lot recently. Unfortunately, I’m smack in the middle of a season where several close friends of mine are losing aging loved ones, facing difficulties with their children, and/or having health problems themselves. 


It can be pretty difficult to avoid “shooting from the hip” and saying whatever pops into your head (I call this verbally vomiting on someone). There’s a simple go-to acronym I use that helps me communicate effectively. It’s called T.H.I.N.K.. I’ve used it with my coaching clients and in everyday life. It works. Next time you’re facing a difficult conversation try using it.  

T is for True. Is what you’re saying truthful? 

Don’t make something up. Don’t gossip. Be honest!

H is for Helpful. Is what you’re saying helpful and will it add value to the situation? Will your words benefit someone or be a burden to them?

I is for Inspiring. Is what you’re saying inspiring? Are your words like a backhoe or a bulldozer (building up or tearing down)?

N is for Necessary. Is what you’re saying necessary or does the situation call for silence?

K is for Kind. Is what you’re saying kind? Follow the “mom principal”- If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.

Click here for a free copy of T.H.I.N.K.

To Say Or Not To Say…That Is the Question

My husband is a “fix-it” kind of man. He’s often putting out fires in his job, so fixing things comes pretty naturally to him. When I’ve got an issue, or someone has hurt me, or something on my mind, his go-to reaction is to tell me how to “fix” the problem. Here’s the deal though, nine times out of ten I don’t want a fix; I simply want a sympathetic ear to listen to me vent. Can you relate? 

If I’m honest and think back to situations in the past where someone I knew was hurting I would often give out inappropriate responses too. Here’s what I’d do: a) I rambled on b) I didn’t say anything at all or c) I avoided the situation completely. 

So here’s the million-dollar question: 

What should we do to let the hurting person know we care? 

While every person and situation is unique, emotions like sadness, anger, loneliness, despair, disappointment, grief, fear, loss, confusion are universal. Genuine warmth, compassion, and understanding are usually just what the hurting person needs.

Genuine warmth, compassion, and understanding are usually just what the hurting person needs. Click To Tweet

Here’s a great rule of thumb: If you’re at a loss as to what to say, ask yourself this simple question: “What would I want someone to say to me if I was in a similar situation?” 

Say This, Not That 

Next time you’re in a position where you want to say the right thing, T.H.I.N.K. before you speak, and then try using some of these comforting responses. 

Try saying this: My job is to make your life easier and this is what I want to do. Will that be okay with you? Not this: How can I help you?

Try saying this: You know that time when you did _______. That proves that you’re brave and you can do hard things! I believe in you! Not this: You’ve got this!

Try saying this: Remember that time when you did ______ for me? You were there for me, now it’s my turn to be there for you.  Not this: I’m here for you. 

Try saying this: You mean so much to me. Helping you is a priority.  Not this: I want to help you. 

Try saying this: I’m usually up early (or late), reach out to me if you need anything at all and I’ll drop what I’m doing. Or… I’m here to listen to you no matter when you need an ear.  Not this: Reach out to me if you need anything at all. 

Try saying this: Get some rest and let me take your child/children/pet for the day. Or… Take a nap while I clean your house for you.  Not this: Get some rest. 

Try saying this: I love to bake/cook. I’ve made a yummy dish for you. When can I leave it on your doorstep or kitchen counter? Not this: What can I make you? 

Try saying this: You’re a wonderful person and I wish more than anything that I could take this pain away from you. Can I give you a hug? Not this: I’m sorry for your pain. 

Try saying this: I know every situation is different, but I went through something very similar so if you’d ever like to chat, it doesn’t have to be now, about how I made it through it or want some advice I’d be happy to share it with you.  Not this: I know how you feel. Been there done that! 

Try saying this: There’s no rule book when it comes to grief. No judgment. Take as long as you need to be sad. There’s no time frame. I’m here for you no matter how long it takes! Not this: It’s time to put this behind you and get on with your life. 

Try saying this: Death ends a life, not a relationship. (courtesy of author Mitch Albom) I know you will cherish the memories you have made with ____. Not this: Someday you will see them again. 

Try saying this: Prayer is so powerful. .  I know when you’re in the middle of a tough situation you may not even know what to pray. Let me be the one to pray for you. What specific things can I bring before the Lord on your behalf? Not this: I’ll pray for you. 

Our Presence is What Counts

Before I go I want to share that there’s something that supersedes even saying the right words. It’s us. Our presence. It’s us being there to lend an ear when someone just wants to be heard. It’s us being ready to give a hug when needed. It’s us nodding our head when someone needs validation. It’s us sitting beside a hurting person so they don’t feel alone. It’s us letting someone cry and then wiping away their tears. It’s us. 

I’m always open to suggestions that will help me be a better communicator. What are some helpful things you’ve said to a hurting friend? What are some things that were said to you when you needed encouragement? Jot me a note and let me know-I’d love to hear from you!


Choose To Be Grateful!

In today’s world “bad news infested” headlines and political divisiveness having a sense of gratitude is needed more than ever. Research shows that being grateful has its perks! Want to feel happier? Lower your stress? Get out of depression? Worry less? Then be grateful! Download my 365 Days of Gratitude here

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