Life can throw us unexpected curve balls. From a colleague being laid off to the death of a close friend’s loved one, finding the right words to say can be difficult. Sometimes it’s even more difficult to know what you can do to provide comfort and support. Luckily, the right thing to say (or do) does exist and can offer consolation without being too intrusive.
What to Say When a Close Colleague Has Been Laid Off
Layoffs are a particularly awkward situation, since it borders on feeling grateful that you still have a job and supporting your colleague. Keep the focus on the news itself:
“I heard the news. Do you want to grab lunch or just some fresh air with me?”
Avoid attempting to relate or justifying the situation with comments like: “I know how you feel” or “You’re better off without us.” This will only come off as overcompensation and disingenuous. Instead, offer your ears and take your friend out for a meal. Listening is everything.
What to Say When a Friend or Family Member is Going Through a Divorce
Whether or not you’ve gone through a divorce yourself, this isn’t a good time to give advice on how to handle the situation. Instead, commiserate by saying something like:
“I wish I had the right words. If you’re free, I’ll bring over dinner on Wednesday so we can talk.”
Offering to listen to their story and letting them know you care for their well being, and support them, is much more reassuring than any advice you could provide. Put a date on the calendar immediately, and offer to bring over dinner. This keeps getting together from being a vague promise.
What to Say When a Friend is Unable to Have Children
Infertility is not only devastating to couples; it’s also an extremely sensitive topic. Approach the topic delicately with modest comments, such as:
“How are you doing today?”
“If you want to talk or just want company, I can come over today.”
Unfortunately there are no words that can improve the situation, so being a good friend should be the focus. Be there if they want to talk, yell, cry or complain. You don’t need to understand or put yourself in their shoes – just keep them company. If you’re really close with this person, give them something small, like a framed picture of the last friend group outing. The picture can help reassure them that they still have so much love in their lives, and they are never alone.
What to Say When a Friend or Family Member has a Health Scare
If you’ve ever read the best-selling book “The Fault in Our Stars” (or cheated and saw the movie), you’ll know that people react to health scares in different ways. Avoid the pity party by offering simple words of comfort, like:
“Let me know if there’s anything you need. I’ll call you in a couple days to check in.”
“I support whatever decision you make.”
Allow them to be angry, upset or quiet, but also encourage them to seize the day with you. Whether it’s a brief stroll around the park or going with them to pick up dry cleaning, plan an activity that brightens their mood and is productive.
What to Say When a Friend has Someone Close Pass Away
Many people say not to mourn those that have passed, but to celebrate them instead. While this is a good motto, everyone heals in their own time and may not be able to come to terms as quickly as others. The most comforting words are usually minimal:
“I am so sorry you’re going through this.”
or, if they’re a very close friend:
“I’ll be over in 10.”
Since people deal with death in different ways, take notice of how the family is dealing with the loss and try to act accordingly. While generic, “I am sorry for your loss” is always an acceptable response. If it’s one of your closest friends, offer to come over and help them pack if they’ll be traveling. Making yourself available in their time of need is what typically matters most in these situations, while also respecting their privacy. Make sure to call and check in within the week – whether they answer or not, they’ll know you care.
In all of these, you’ll notice a common theme: being available to just listen. At the end of the day, remember to be genuine, thoughtful and offer helpful acts of kindness – sometimes saying less is more. The most important thing is to show that you care and that they aren’t alone.