conversation encouragers and discouragers

I woke up this morning knowing with crystal clarity that I did not feel good about yesterday's post. I don't want to endorse or perpetuate the application of a label as strong as 'abuse' in regard to the failure to acknowledge and respect someone's right to feel how they feel, because it may simply stem from ignorance rather than malintent. So I took that post down and revised it significantly. Here's version 2.0:

In the process of googling something else, I stumbled upon a list of rather commonly used expressions that may come across as invalidating of someone's right to feel how they feel.

No doubt many people who say this type of thing have good intentions, while other people may be in so much pain or confusion that they do actually intend to shut people down.

Since most of us here want our children, mates, and friends talk to us about their thoughts and feelings, I thought it might be helpful to know that even well-intentioned words can shut down the flow of communication.

If you want folks to keep talking to you, try responding with statements that express your understanding of what they just said (empathy and reflection), or your willingness to hear more, rather than trying to shift their perspective or hand them a solution.

Here are some examples of conversation encouragers:

Wow, that sounds tough.
How is that for you?
What's your take on that?

I'm sorry you are hurting.
Sounds like you really didn't like that.
That felt really out of line to you.
Sounds like you wish that had never happened.

Mmm. Uh huh. I hear you. Ohhh.
Silent nod with eye contact.
Move closer and hug them or rub their shoulders.

Here are some examples of conversation discouragers:

Cheer up. Lighten up. Get over it.
Don't cry. Don't worry. Don't be sad.

Stop whining. Deal with it. Forget about it.
Stop complaining. Don't be so dramatic.
You are too sensitive. Don't take it so personally.

You've got it all wrong.
That is ridiculous.
I was only kidding.
That's not the way things are.

Well, I tried to help you.
You are making everyone else miserable.
It doesn't bother anyone else, why should it bother you?

It can't be that bad.
It's not worth getting that upset over.
You are over-reacting.

You should be excited.
You should feel thankful that ____.
You shouldn't let it bother you.
You should just forget about it.

Don't say that.
You know that isn't true.
You don't mean that.

Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself?
What about my feelings?

Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

When you are older you will understand.
You are just going through a phase.

Although I don't endorse this guy's site, I do want to give him credit for the unedited version of the second list:


Sandi said...

Hi Karen,

I'm glad you kept the list of discouragers. I feel that it's important for people to recognize what is invalidating. At first, I was thinking that I didn't want you to take out the word "abuse," but after seeing how you revised it, I agree with you. Whether it is labeled with the term abuse or something else, no matter what the label, it's still just invalidating another's feelings. I appreciate the thought you put into this one! It's a tough topic, but a very important one. People feel they are being helpful by saying "Suck it up; tomorrow is a new day." They are not. Thank you for broaching an important topic!


6p0111684ee430970c said...

Wow. It can be so easy to say some of those things on the discouragers list when you are trying to be helpful and supportive and don't really know what else to say. But it seems so obvious reading it here in this context how it could have the opposite effect. Thanks Karen! Funny though, the encouragers list is so much shorter...

karen alonge said...

It IS pretty short, huh. It doesn't take much to show interest!