Posted by: paulkonasewich | April 18, 2008

“Oh, you’ll be fine”

t-distress_sxchu-com_c_ivar-van-bussel_919979_34517581.jpg“The best of intentions” can sometimes get me off track as a Supportive Listener. When the speaker gets really distressed, I tend to console.

Let’s face it: it can be tough to be in the presence of somebody who is distressed. And I may even FEEL their distress, as if it’s my own. When that happens, to deal with my own distress I sometimes attempt a “soothing” comment:

  • “Oh I’m sure things will work out.”
  • “Well you’ve been through this before and you did fine.”
  • “I bet you’ll feel better tomorrow.”

You know I really mean the best with the statements, but I’m afraid they have an unintended consequence: they signal to the speaker that the distress they’re experiencing isn’t okay. And so the speaker is caught feeling bad on the one hand, and being pushed to ignore that feeling on the other hand. That squeeze creates a lot of stress.

On the other hand, when I really accept this person’s experience of distress, they’ll often move through it surprisingly quickly, leaving them much more capable of moving forward.

Paul.

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