Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Comfort Someone When They're Having A Rough Time
Published May 6th, 2021 & updated on Jan 19th, 2022
In your however-many years on this planet, you’ve probably had someone come to you for help at least once. Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a significant other, it can be hard to find your words when they tell you they’re struggling! They need a specific kind of care at that moment…whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or some words of comfort.
But, those words aren’t always at the tip of your tongue and sometimes you’re not prepared to comfort someone. Figuring out how to comfort a friend, or anyone else, can be a sensitive situation. So, we’re here to help you sense what they may need and know how to give it to them!
How To Be There For Someone
Okay, let’s set one little rule first. When someone is looking for comfort, they don’t usually want advice unless they explicitly ask for it! They’re already in a vulnerable position, so they probably don’t want to feel like you’re judging them, or trying to make decisions for them. It’s important that you validate their feelings, whether or not you understand them.
If you DO feel like it’s appropriate to give someone advice after you’ve comforted them (maybe they even asked for it), just make sure they don’t feel pressured to follow it. A simple “but of course it’s up to you” will make them feel empowered to pursue that route because THEY want to!
You’ll also want to take on a different tone depending on what mood they’re in. Especially when navigating how to comfort someone over text, because it’s more about tone than expression or touch. So, let’s start off with some good blanket statements that can encourage someone to vent — and feel comfortable around you while doing so!
“I’m here to listen. Just let it all out.”
“You’re important to me, and your feelings are important to me too.”
“I may not understand exactly how you feel, but you’re not alone.”
“I’m really sorry you’re going through this. Is there anything I can do?”
(Notice how they all avoid invalidating statements like “you’ll be fine” or “cheer up.”)
How To Comfort Someone Who Is Sad
Comforting a friend, family member, or partner who is sad can be difficult because you just want to suck out alllll of their sadness and make them feel better again. But it’s not that easy, and sometimes it’s better to sit in those feelings than to make them seem unwelcome! Listen to your person, maybe rub their back (if they’re okay with it), and just tell them what you love about them.
If you’re trying to figure out how to comfort someone who is crying, there are a few things to be cautious of. For example, don’t hand them a tissue — it might make them feel like you want them to stop crying, even if you are just trying to help. Give them time to let it out and then just listen when, or if, they want to talk.
How To Comfort Someone Who Is Stressed
When the person you’re comforting is stressed out, you’ll want to be calm and use a calming tone — but NEVER say “calm down.” We know, confusing, right? But that phrase can be so invalidating of their emotions. They’ll likely just get more stressed and respond with frustration! Instead, ask them about what’s causing their stress and VALIDATE their feelings. It might also be helpful to remind them that it’s okay to take a break or focus on one thing at a time.
How To Comfort Someone Who Is Angry
Just like with stress, telling someone who is angry to “calm down” is probably not a good idea. But, you should be calm towards them and ask them to explain who, or what, they are angry about! This is time to just listen and validate their feelings. (They might reconsider things and be less angry when they’ve had time to reflect later, but your job right now is to be in their corner.)
How To Comfort Someone Who Is Scared
Encouraging words for a friend, family member, or significant other when they’re scared should focus around reassurance. Fear can set them right into fight or flight mode, so all logic is probably out the window at this point. Focus on remaining calm for them, but don’t make them feel like they’re overreacting. Help to ground them by showing them how to slow their breathing and teaching them the 5-4-3-2-1 technique described here.
So, next time someone you care about is having a rough time, remember this article! We guarantee that sitting with them, hearing them out, and telling them how awesome they are will help make them feel even the tiniest bit better in any situation. And remember: validate, validate, validate their feelings!