About the Episode:
Everyone goes through hard times in life and will need words of empathy and encouragement to navigate their healing, and sometimes pep talks need to come from internal dialogues. Learn how to reword your pep talk positively.
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We’re going to talk about supporting people through difficult times and I’m sure anybody that’s listening right now has had a difficult time, I know that you have because nobody goes through life without anything bad happening to them. And that’s really a key starting point as we’re going to go through stuff today, because I’m going to give you some phrases that you’ve probably heard, and some translations into things that could probably sound better to the person that’s going through that rough time. I know that as you hear these, you’re going to be like, “Man, I wish they would have said that, to me, that would have been so much more helpful, and so much more supportive than what people have said to me in the past.”
It’s tough, because even though you might be going through a difficult time right now, people that have compassion for you might not always have the right things to say. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care, it doesn’t mean that they are not trying to feel what you’re feeling right now, because they do actually care for you. There’s a phrase that I’ve always said because, you know, I’ve hated this phrase, right? I’ve seen a lot of death, you know, in my life with my dad dying when I was 16. And whenever you go to a funeral or something like that, or if you’ve had somebody pass in your life, or you’ve probably even said this phrase to other people who have had this happen, or you’ll say, “I’m sorry for your loss”. Have you ever heard that before? the answer’s yes. You know, it’s just yes or yes, yes. You’ve heard that before? Yes. You’ve said that before I have to eat? And that’s because at the time, I really didn’t know what else to say.
And that didn’t mean that I didn’t care. You know, because you’ll probably get a response. Like “You just don’t understand.” You might have heard that before. You might have even said that before, when somebody says, ‘I’m sorry.” When they’re trying to empathize with you in that moment, like “You just don’t understand.Ÿ”And that’s probably true. So over the past years, I’ve actually adopted that as my own phrase. So instead of saying, “I’m sorry, for your loss.” I’ll just state 100% truth to them and say, “You know what? This sucks. I’m sorry, because I don’t understand. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I’m here for you.” Or you can even shorten it. “You’re right, I don’t understand. But I still care.”
It’s acknowledging that person’s feelings because they could be right or at least from their perspective, right now, you might not understand or from your perspective of somebody saying, “Hey, I’m sorry for your loss.” They might not understand they might not have been through what you’re going through right now. They still care. So, shift that phrase, that’s the first one here, you know, because that’s a big one and there’s been a lot of extra deaths the past couple years with the pandemic, and everything going on. I mean, people not even really able to see family, when they pass at the early stages of this, there was something in my movie that when I interviewed a pastor, that the pastor wasn’t even allowed to go see one of his church members who was dying in the ICU from this, and not even that, but their own family couldn’t go in to see them. I’ve never experienced that. That’s crazy. And that does suck. But I don’t understand. But I still fucking care, I still have compassion, I still hurt when I see that person hurts because of what they went through. So, shift that a little bit. People go through rough times all the time.
Here’s a couple of other ways that you can help. I’m sure, you might have said or you’ve probably heard, This really sucks to hear, by the way, when somebody says “You’ll be fine.” Right? Even though that might be the truth. You could be fine a week from now, a year from now. So it could absolutely be true, but it lacks empathy. Right? So instead of saying, “Hey, you know, there’s no need to cry, there’s no need to worry, there’s no need to blank, you’ll be fine.” Try saying this to somebody instead, “That must be really tough.” Then just sit there and listen. In that moment by just saying, “That must be really tough or you know what that sucks.” They’ll understand that you are genuinely putting yourself in their path to care for them. By not telling them I mean, I understand it’s with good intentions, right? That you’re going to say you’ll be fine and we’re trying to help them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That what’s happening right now is temporary not permanent, in most cases, I get it. But in that moment, it doesn’t help the person going through the thing because they just need to know that somebody is there for them. And to acknowledge that what they’re going through is really crappy. So instead of saying, you’ll be fine, you can say that. “I’m sorry, that must really be tough. That sucks.”
There’s one that I grew up with a lot in church, that I really, really despise, oh, my God, that I hate hearing this all the time and I heard people say this to everybody else, right and even though it again, it could be true, but it just sucks in the moment to hear this. Because if something bad happens to you, and there are things that can happen to you, that you did not choose, I know I talk a lot about on this show that pretty much everything in life is because of choices that you’ve made. And that is absolutely, completely 100% true. It’s also true, that in rare scenarios, there are just external forces that are at work that could cause something to happen in your life without your interaction, without anything happening, stuff just takes place, you know, like a plane, or something like that having a mechanical failure, or even on 9/11, 21 years ago, when people got onto a particular plane, that ended up being hijacked and crashed into the ground, and into the Pentagon or into the World Trade Center. There’s not much you can do about that. That stuff happens there. It’s just external things, that when you say something like this, right to somebody, everything happens for a reason. That doesn’t mean shit. Okay?
In that moment, that doesn’t mean shit. It could mean when something happens, and maybe focus on this too, because you can ask them, “What do you feel like doing about this?” You know, because it shifts their mindset into taking some action rather than sitting in the crappy place they’re in right now. You know, because they could make a choice in that moment, rather than everything happens for a reason. Or you could even say, if something bad, like maybe somebody gets fired from a job, your best friend gets fired from a job or your spouse, your partner gets fired from a job and they’ve been talking a lot about moving on from there. So that being fired from the job and this hardship, and the struggle coming from that could actually mean that it’s time for them to look somewhere else and to pursue their dreams.
So, if someone tells you something bad soon, well, everything happens for a reason, because there’s no empathy in that whatsoever. That’s literally dismissing everything that’s going on with them right now. Rather than saying something like, “Well, this means that you can go after your dreams now, you know, the thing you’ve been talking about for two years? What do you want to do about it right now, because you’ve got an opportunity, staring you in the face.”
Then it puts the just ownership back into it to where they can choose to move forward, or they can choose to stay in the crap. But you are now pretty much just guiding them, holding their hand, encouraging them, rather than dismissing them by saying everything happens for a reason. “Well, what do you really want to do about this?” or “This means that you could now do this?” It helps shift their mindset, rather than just shrugging them off. Are you tracking with me here? Now, don’t go as far as saying this when something like this happens, because this is another one of those phrases, right? “Well, this is what I would do in your situation.”
Hey, guess what? You’re not them. And they’re not you? Hello? That’s a fact. Okay. They could be very different, right? Instead, come on now. Ask them, “Hey, what are you thinking? It might help to talk it through. But there’s no pressure. I’m here when you’re ready.” Rather than saying, “Hey, this is what I would do.”
Why is that bad? Because I see that as judgment, right? Because they didn’t do what you think you would do in their situation. Which means that somehow, you’re minimizing their response to this, even though they might be in emotional turmoil right then in there, and don’t have clarity of thought right in that moment. You are now judging them because they didn’t do what you thought they should have done or even more so what you think you would have done in their circumstance and remember, you’re not them, okay? This is one of the dumbest phrases ever is this is what I would do in your situation. Chop that out of your vocabulary right now. Don’t ever use that again.
If you read Want to help somebody without judgment, ask them just “What are you thinking? What’s going on up there? That might help to talk it through? I’m here if you’re ready.” Sound a lot better? I think so. Oh, the last one, I’m going to tell you here. And this one just, I don’t know. It’s not good. And I know we’ve all heard this right and probably even more. So we’ve heard ourselves tell ourselves this, to try to shrug something off and give ourselves a pep talk, which really sucks because whether this comes from somewhere else, I think it’s actually worse. When you say this to yourself, when something bad happens or something you didn’t want, you start saying “Well, could have been wors” Now, that’s stupid. Instead of saying it could have been worse, ask yourself, “How could that have been better?”
You know, because now you’re just thinking, well, at least I didn’t fail completely. At least my failure wasn’t too bad. And it actually dismisses the value of the failure itself, the learnings, the education, the growth, from the failure itself, when you just say it could have been worse, because now you just set your bar at the shittiest possible point, and accepted that as being okay.
You’re following me? Stop that. Stop saying it could have been worse and start asking yourself the question, “How could I have done better?” Because now you’re saying I don’t accept that as a permanent bar, a permanent threshold in my life, and from here on out, everything that I do is going to be better than what I just did? That’s how you’ve got to look at this stuff. Because do you want to just stay in mediocrity? Do you want to just stay at that low threshold, that bar of where it is just where it could have been worse? Of course, it could have been, you know, what you could have not tried at all. Or you could have just thrown your hands up in the air, so you know what is good for you for actually doing something to begin with. And now you get to ask yourself the question, “How can I do better?”
Because that was just a moment in time and those moments can never exist again, because you never want to stay in that spot. Because you know what, it could have been worse. But if you stay in that spot and hold on to that phrase, it could have been worse, it will never be any better.
Not that it could have been worse, how could I do better? And then let your brain dream. Let your brain think. Let it soak in, close your eyes and imagine what it can be six months from now, as you choose to never let that be your threshold again and continuously raise that bar because you can do better and you will do better, when you don’t accept that failure.
- Nobody goes through life without any pain
- Genuine intentions with empathy
- Impactful and non-sugar coated empathy
- Positivity twist on sincere and hard conversations
- How could it have been better instead of how it could have been worse