If you’ve ever felt anxious or down at any point in life—and we’re sure you have because it’s a real feeling any human can experience—you know how much the feeling sucks. An overwhelming sense of anxiety can feel heavy and erratic. It may feel like you’re constantly in a loop of cluelessness, hopelessness, or doubtfulness and you can’t break free. Bottom line is, it’s not pleasant.
When a friend confides in us about their worries and anxieties in life, our automatic response is usually “It’s going to be okay.” And while it comes from a place of concern and our desire to reassure the other person, the thing is, it might not be as helpful as we think it is.
It gives false hope, which isn’t helpful to the situation.
Is it really going to be okay? Sure, maybe. While we’re here for the optimism and positivity, it’s not always the right thing to say to everyone. Some people take it as reassurance. But others may just see it as false hope. Imagine being told that things will be okay, only for them to get worse… that’s honestly the biggest betrayal in history. Exag, but you get the point.
It can also come off as being dismissive of what the person is feeling. They’re opening up about their worries and negative emotions, and hearing “it’s gonna be okay” from a friend might sound like a generic, disconnected response. It’s like they never heard a word you said and were only waiting for the cue to say what they think you wanted to hear.
It comes off as toxic positivity.
According to Psychology Today, toxic positivity is when you believe that the only way to go through life is to stay positive. No one likes it when someone is always nega, but it’s also not good to be too positive all the time that we start to overlook or give no regard to the negative things in life. Sometimes, allowing ourselves to recognize and accept these negative emotions could be beneficial to the situation. Instead of drowning them in positive vibes only, Konstantin Lukin Ph.D. suggests in his article on Psychology today, that letting our friends relish and recognize these unwanted emotions might help them regulate and process their feelings accordingly.
Here are other things you shouldn’t be saying to someone with anxiety:
Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C enumerates other statements to watch out for when trying to reassure someone. It’s best if you don’t say:
- “Calm down.”
- “It’s not a big deal.”
- “I know how you feel.”
If you’re looking for alternative things to say that can actually help a friend out, psychology professor Martin Antony, Ph.D mentions these things in an interview with self.com:
- “What can I do to help?”
- “I’m always here for you.”
- “Do you want to hear advice or would you just like someone else to listen to you?”
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