7 “comforting” phrases people say that are actually hurtful

We’ve all been there. Someone says something to us, a phrase meant to console and comfort, but instead, it stings. It’s like a slap in the face with a velvet glove. The intentions may be good, but the impact can be hurtful.

This is a tricky territory, folks. So often, we use these phrases without realizing the harm they do. They’re so embedded in our culture and our language that we don’t even think twice before uttering them.

But here’s the thing: words matter. They shape our relationships and our realities. And sometimes, those well-intentioned comforting phrases can do more harm than good.

In this piece, we’re going to explore some of those phrases. Because trust me, there’s always a better way to express our empathy and support.

Let’s dive in!

1) “At least you have…”

This is a classic example of a comfort phrase that can be more hurtful than helpful.

We’ve all heard it, and probably said it too. “At least you have your health,” or “At least you have other children,” or even, “At least you still have a job.”

It’s meant to remind someone of the positive aspects of their life when they’re going through a tough time.

But here’s the problem: it dismisses the person’s feelings and struggles. It invalidates their experience by comparing it to something worse or focusing on the silver lining.

And that’s not what people need when they’re hurting. They need acknowledgement, validation, and empathy.

So instead of saying, “At least you have…”, try saying, “I can see that you’re really hurting right now, and I’m here for you.” It’s a small change in language that can make a big difference in someone’s day.

2) “Everything happens for a reason”

Now, this is a counterintuitive one.

We often use this phrase to soothe someone going through a tough time, suggesting that their current hardship is part of a bigger plan, a greater good. It’s meant to give people hope and reassurance.

But here’s the twist: it may actually cause more pain.

Here’s why: not all people believe that everything in life happens for a divine or destined reason. Also, this phrase can trivialize their pain and belittle the significance of their experience.

It can feel dismissive, as if their suffering is just a necessary step towards some vague, undefined end.

Next time, say something like, “This is really tough, and I’m here with you.” It acknowledges the pain and offers support without trying to wrap it up in a neat little package of cosmic justification.

3) “You’re too sensitive”

Now, this one hits close to home. I’ve been on the receiving end of this phrase a few times, and it never fails to sting.

People usually say this with good intentions, trying to help someone toughen up or not take things so personally.

But the truth is, it can feel dismissive and invalidating. It’s telling someone that their feelings are wrong, that they’re overreacting.

In my book, Breaking The Attachment: How To Overcome Codependency in Your Relationship, I talk about the importance of acknowledging and validating emotions, not dismissing them.

Telling someone they’re too sensitive doesn’t help them cope better; it makes them feel like their emotions are a burden.

Instead of saying, “You’re too sensitive,” try saying, “Your feelings are valid and it’s okay to feel this way.” By doing this, you’ll create a more supportive, understanding environment.

4) “Just move on”

Ah, the infamous “just move on”. It’s a phrase we’ve probably all heard, and maybe even said, in an attempt to help someone get over a difficult situation.

But here’s the thing: moving on is not as simple as flipping a switch. It’s a process, and it takes time. Telling someone to “just move on” can make them feel pressured to hide their feelings and rush their healing process.

A quote that always springs to mind is one by the brilliant Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Healing takes time, and part of that process is telling our stories, not suppressing them.

I’ve had to remind myself of this numerous times when faced with my own challenges.

What should you say instead? Try “Take all the time you need. I’m here for you.” This validates their feelings and gives them the space they need to heal at their own pace.

5) “It could be worse”

phrases only really toxic people use according to psychology 7 “comforting” phrases people say that are actually hurtful

This phrase is often said with the intention of providing perspective. But let me tell you, it’s rarely ever comforting.

In my own experience, when I was going through a particularly tough breakup, a well-meaning friend said to me, “It could be worse. You could be jobless and homeless.”

While it was indeed true, it did nothing to diminish the pain I was feeling at that moment.

Telling someone “it could be worse” is like telling them they shouldn’t feel bad because others have it worse. It’s dismissive and invalidating.

Remember, everyone’s pain and experience is relative. What might seem like a minor issue to one person could be a major crisis to another.

So instead of saying “It could be worse,” try saying, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this. How can I support you?” This shows empathy and offers genuine comfort without minimizing their feelings.

6) “This too shall pass”

While this phrase is supposed to bring comfort by reminding us that difficult times are temporary, it can sometimes feel dismissive.

It glosses over the pain someone is feeling in the moment and pushes them to look towards an uncertain future.

A profound quote by the wonderful Mr. Rogers comes to mind: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

In my own life, I’ve found this to be true. When we talk about our feelings, when we sit with them and acknowledge them, they become less overwhelming.

As a better alternative, say “I’m here with you through this. We’ll navigate it together.”

And if you’ve found these insights helpful and want to stay updated with my latest articles, I invite you to follow me over on my Facebook page here. It’s a space for us to learn and grow together.

7) “Life’s not fair”

This one is raw and honest, but not particularly helpful or comforting.

Yes, life isn’t always fair. We all know that. But when someone is in the midst of a difficult situation, this phrase can feel like a cold splash of water. It offers no comfort, no support, just a harsh reminder of life’s unpredictability.

Instead of providing solace, it dismisses their feelings and leaves them feeling even more alone in their struggle.

Rather than “Life’s not fair,” try saying, “This situation really sucks. It’s unfair and you don’t deserve it. I’m here with you.” This acknowledges their pain and offers your support, which can make all the difference in the world.

Final thoughts

Navigating the complexities of human communication can be quite a challenge.

We’re often well-intentioned in our attempts to comfort and console, but as we’ve explored, commonly used phrases can sometimes cause more harm than good.

The key is not in avoiding these phrases altogether, but in being mindful about how we use them. It’s about recognizing the power of our words and striving to create a space of empathy and understanding.

A quote by the wise Dalai Lama comes to mind: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Let’s strive to put this into practice in our everyday interactions.

As we navigate this journey, I think one of the following videos by Justin Brown would be really beneficial for you to watch. Justin delves into the illusion of happiness and why chasing it can lead to misery.

He challenges the common belief that pursuing happiness is key to a fulfilling life, arguing that true contentment comes from within.

This video further explores some of the topics we’ve discussed here, providing new insights and perspectives.

YouTube video

Remember, communication is a skill – it takes time and practice to master. So let’s keep learning, growing, and striving to be kinder in our interactions with others.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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