Have you ever seen someone in tears (perhaps after a bad break up), and you just freeze? Maybe you thought of telling them to “calm down?”
Knowing how to comfort someone is an important part of being a good friend, partner, or a kind person in the grand scheme of things. Here are 44 tips on how to comfort someone.
1. Let Them Feel, And Just ‘Witness’
The first thing about comforting someone is to do nothing. Don’t tell them to stop being upset. Just “witness” the other person’s feelings.
If they’re crying, be their shoulder to cry on. If they’re venting, let them talk it out.
Feelings aren’t a bad thing. Listen to them, and usually you’ll know what to do next.
2. Repeat Their Feelings Back to Them
If this person is venting, or expressing her feelings about herself, or others, simply repeat her and show that you heard her out.
A great comfort to friends in distress is knowing that there’s someone who understands them. The important thing is to not simply parrot them. Instead…
3. Ask “How” Twice More Than You Ask “What”
If the person hesitates to talk, or is secretive about their true thoughts, simply ask how they feel. Maybe you don’t know the exact circumstances, but ask open ended questions to provide emotional support.
Rather than asking “why (did that happen),” or “what (happened),” ask “how (do you feel)” and they will slowly open up to you.
4. Let Them Feel – Don’t Minimize or Dismiss
You might think you’re being a great friend by refuting their negative talk, but to a person in the height of their emotion, all it sounds like is dismissal.
Now is not the time to tell her to look on the bright side. Your friends need to feel in order to overcome, so try your best not to rush the process.
5. Let Them Know You Care, and That You’ll Listen
Instead of trying to think of a poetic phrase to comfort someone, simply let him know that you care about him, and will listen to him talk.
Most of the time, that is all it takes. You’d be surprised at how many people he has encountered who refused to hear him out. So if you said you’d listen…
6. Actually Listen
Make sure you actually listen. Practice active listening. Don’t let your inner thoughts disturb you while they’re talking.
Absorb what they are saying, so you can reflect it back to them if you need to.
7. Be Present
You might have dinner plans coming up, or are stressed about a work project, but now is not the time to let your thoughts wander.
Keep your focus on your distressed friend. People can sense when your mind is wandering, and if they do it will hurt their self esteem, and your attempts to comfort them will be ruined.
8. Mirror Their Words
This is where active listening pays off. If your friend describes their situation as “sad,” when you ask questions, make sure to use the exact same word, “sad.”
This is a great form of comfort to someone, when they hear their words reflected back to them.
9. Call Them by Their Name
Another word that draws out a positive response from people is hearing the sound of their own name.
While you talk with this person to comfort them, use their name often.
10. Be Patient
It might take a person some time to express her feelings about her situation. It’s best not to rush her while she is doing this.
Remember: the act of processing emotions (especially negative ones) will take time.
11. Reach Out and Touch (With Consent)
If appropriate, offer physical affection to your friend.
Whether it’s a hug, or a comforting hand on the shoulder, physical touch is a wonderful way to soothe someone when they feel sad.
Check out this video on the importance of soothing yourself and others:
12. Let Them Know What They Mean to You
While you’re listening to your friend, offer words of affirmation to comfort her.
Simply describe how much she means to you and let her know verbally.
13. Positive Reinforcement
Compliments are an underrated form of comfort. Be sincere, and tell him about his strengths.
This is especially important if the compliments are related to what he’s currently going through. For example, compliment his work ethic if he’s having a hard time at his job.
14. Treat Them to Some Delicious Pasta
It’s been scientifically proven that foods that are high in carbs are great for soothing nerves.
So when a person is feeling sad, invite them for a home-cooked, whole grain pasta dinner.
15. Do Something Fun Together
Take them to do a fun activity together., like going to an ice rink or a theme park.
They’ll get a boost of much-need feelgood brain chemicals, which can help them to cope when feeling upset.
16. Do Something They Like to Do
If your loved one enjoys golf, invite her to play golf with you. Maybe you’re not a great golfer, or you hate sports. Even so, try to let her experience something that usually gives her joy.
17. Invite Them to Do Volunteer Work with You
A proven way to distract from negative experiences, is to help those less fortunate.
Invite your friend to volunteer with you at a homeless shelter, or an animal rescue center. It’ll be a great source of mental healing for him.
18. Take Them on An Ice Cream Date
Ice cream is not called a comfort food for nothing! While eating ice cream everyday isn’t healthy, a single indulgence is great for self care and will do much good in comforting your friend.
19. Have a Movie Night
Movies can help you mentally escape from depressing situations. Organize a movie night with your friend, and make a playlist of feel-good movies.
You could get the latest comedies, or maybe some horrors, anything to take them on a cinematic journey!
20. Do A Digital Detox with Them
Social media usage has been linked to depression and anxiety. This is not helpful if you are already going through a tough time.
Tell him that you want to take a digital detox for a week or two, and invite him to join you.
This way you can both spend less time online and more time on fulfilling and healing activities.
21. Never Tell Them to “Calm Down”
Remember the last time you felt anxious or angry, and someone told you to “calm down.” It likely made you feel much worse.
“Calm down” is dismissive of their feelings. Other (dis)honorable mentions (to never mention!): “Stop crying!” “It could be worse…” Or “Just be positive!”
22. Pass Them a Handwritten Note
In the age of texting and social media, sending handwritten letters can make someone feel really special, and help them push through a tough situation.
As for what to write: use the previous tips, such as affirming their feelings, and giving positive reinforcement.
23. Keep the Focus on Them
It might be tempting to relate to the other person’s story with your own past personal experiences.
While this can build trust and intimacy with others, it won’t be well-received to someone in grief.
Keep the spotlight on them as much as you can, until they ask for your opinion.
24. Make Eye Contact
While listening, remember to keep soft eye contact with the person.
It not only indicates that you’re paying attention, it also shows that you want to connect with them emotionally.
25. Acknowledge Your Helplessness
It’s okay to admit that you don’t know what to say to solve their issue or comfort them. Don’t be afraid to say this when approaching your friend.
Something as simple as, “I don’t know how to comfort you or take your problem away, but I am here for you if you need anything” will do.
26. If You’re Not Sure What To Do, Ask
Another great way to comfort someone in a bad mood is to simply ask how you can help.
You might get an “I don’t know” – in that case, just try to be present and witness their feelings. They might also ask for practical favors or advice.
27. Check in Regularly
After you’ve first comforted them, check in regularly, through calls or text, to offer emotional support.
You may assume that comforting someone is a once-off action, but it takes time and patience. Encourage them at each step of the journey toward healing.
28. Tell Them it’s Okay to Feel
Many people, because of their upbringing, guard their feelings too closely. For times of sadness, worry, or anger, it might be hard for them to open up.
Gently let him know that it is not wrong to feel, and to express his feelings.
Related article – 11 Key Traits Of An Empathetic Person
29. Relate Your Own Experience (When Appropriate)
There’s a fine line between sharing a similar experience to relate, and making it all about you.
But sometimes, hearing that you’re not alone in your pain can be comforting.
If prompted for advice or your opinion, relate with your own experience: detail how you felt, and how you feel about it now.
30. Invite Them for a Gym Session
Breaking a sweat is a great way to improve mental health. It can help you to cope by forcing you to be mindful of your body and surroundings.
And it’s much easier to exercise regularly when you do it together, so invite your friend to go to the gym with you.
31. Offer Practical Help
Your loved one may be in such grief, that they neglect their daily errands.
If you want to ease someone’s burden, offer to pick up their groceries, or take their kids to school. You can comfort someone by taking care of their everyday needs.
32. Send Them a Cute/Funny Text
Send them encouragement through humor, with a funny text about your day, or something that reminded you of them. You never know how it might brighten up their day.
33. Encourage Them as They Explore Solutions
Good therapists know most people won’t accept a proposed solution right away.
So they listen, ask questions, and guide the patient to come to a breakthrough themselves.
Be like a therapist. Listen to your friend to get on the same page as her. Encourage her as she thinks of possible solutions to her situation.
34. Respect Their Comfort Boundaries
Don’t take offense if the person rejects your support. Maybe the type of comfort you offer doesn’t resonate with them.
Respect their boundaries, and if necessary, ask what they feel comfortable with, so you know what to do.
35. Give Them Space
While trying to comfort someone, try not to smother them.
Find a balance: Occasionally check in and be available to offer support, but also give them the space they need to process their emotions alone.
36. Invite Them to Do Something Distracting
Maybe you have a hobby or side project that could use some assistance. Invite your friend to help you.
Helping others is a productive form of distraction and perspective when it comes to difficult emotions.
37. Don’t Try to Fix Things or Give Quick Judgments
Your first instinct may be to try and minimize their pain.
This may be a natural response, but try put these feelings aside and hear them out before jumping to conclusions and problem-solving.
38. Suggest Solutions If You’re Asked for Them
If you are asked for advice, gently give possible solutions to their pain, and avoid comparing your situation to theirs.
If you can’t think of any solutions, be truthful and admit it to them. Maybe suggest specialists that will know how to solve their issues.
39. Say You’re Sorry
Another simple, but underrated way to comfort someone with your words is to sincerely tell them that you’re sorry for their pain or loss.
It doesn’t need to be fancier than that.
How to Comfort Someone Through Text
40. Call If You Can
If you’re far away from the person you want to comfort, you’ll have no choice but to reach them by phone. If you can, try calling them.
Many young people may prefer texting, but it might not be enough to comfort someone, and a phone call will be more meaningful.
41. Consider Their Sense of Humor Before Sending Memes
A lot of nuance can be lost over text, so be careful when sending memes, gifs, or humorous links.
If you already have that kind of rapport between you, go ahead. But otherwise, you won’t know if the person may feel bad after receiving it, so tread carefully.
42. Be Honest In Your Texts
Just the same as when you comfort someone in person, be honest in your texts.
Let them know if you feel helpless to comfort them. Or relate your feelings and experiences to theirs.
43. Avoid Text Cliches
“Get well soon,” “Life goes on,” etc. Avoid these cliches in your texts. Text them as if you are beside them speaking your mind, in your own words.
44. Follow Up, Even When You Don’t Get a Reply
They might be busy, or too overwhelmed to reply. Be sure to follow up, and be sincere in your efforts to comfort them.
Text them the next day, and then weekly, and be prepared to hear them out even if you get just one word replies.
FAQs about How to Comfort Someone
“How can I comfort someone when they are crying?”
Many of the tips listed above will work to comfort someone who is crying, such as physical affection.
Here are some additional tips to comfort someone when they are crying:
- Most people are embarrassed to cry in front of crowds, so if you’re in a public space, offer to guide them to a more secluded spot where they can have privacy;
- Offer them a tissue;
- Let them cry it out. Wait until they are finished, then gently ask them how you can help.
“What if their source of stress is something that hasn’t happened yet?”
Perhaps your friend is worried about something in the future? While the tips above can still comfort them, you want to be careful to not let them talk themselves into fear.
Schedule something together for the future (something that will come after their source of worry), and guide your conversations to talking about that.
For example, your friend may be worried about an impending conversation with her boss.
In that case, make plans to do something fun immediately after it (or the next day at the latest). She’ll have something to look forward to take her mind off the dread.
“What if they have a panic attack/anxiety response?”
The person you want to comfort may show symptoms of having a panic attack. Take them to a secluded place if you can, to avoid stares.
Speak plainly to them. Ask them what they need from you. People with anxiety disorder may have medicine that you can help them to take.
Get them to focus on deep breathing, as seen in this video:
Once they’ve calmed down, offer practical assistance where you can, such as guiding them to find professional help, or escorting them home.
Related article – Does My Anxiety Ever Go Away On Its Own?
In this article you’ve read 44 tips on how to comfort someone in distress or grief. I hope you found these tips helpful!
Use one or a combination of any of these techniques, and remember to be patient and compassionate.
When you are able to comfort your loved ones, or even strangers, you grow in empathy and compassion, and you will be known as someone who can be relied upon.
Let me know in the comments how you prefer to be comforted, and share this article to someone who could use these tips:)