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September 27, 2022 — 10:01 AM
In a fast-paced world where productivity is praised and feeling anything less than great almost always gets swept under the rug (or even frowned upon), it’s so easy to look at the next person and presume that they’re doing fine. In reality, we all have days when we aren’t feeling our best, and sometimes we just need to be reminded that it’s OK to take a step back and ask for support.
Whether it’s a friend, loved one, or colleague who’s going through a difficult time right now, below are some tips and a whole bunch of examples of words of encouragement you can use to help you lift some weight off their shoulders.
How to encourage someone with words:
1. Be prepared to really listen.
Clinical psychologist and reality therapy instructor Katrina Vandenbroeck, M.S., recommends getting into a listener mindset for the conversation, similar to what she does with her own therapy clients.
“In preparation for each session, I see to it that I am in the right mindset and that I am not distracted by the other things around me,” she tells mbg. “I prepare my physical environment by choosing a quiet and isolated space with minimal to almost no distractions to help the client feel that my full attention is on them.”
Make sure you receive what they share with the respect and urgency it deserves.
2. Don’t make assumptions about their situation.
Vandenbroeck also recommends reassuring the other person that you’re not there to judge them. “It is important not to think ahead of a client or to create assumptions about their situation based on our previous experience with other clients or even with our own personal experience. It helps me a lot to focus only on the information that the client is sharing with me and to focus solely on them in the moment so that I can give them a chance to safely unpack all that they carry with them before deciding what to do,” she explains. “Sometimes, just listening without judgment and being fully present is what they need, and that is more than enough.”
3. Ask what kind of support they need.
After listening, communicate that you hear them and give them the chance to identify and express the kind of support that they need for their situation, Vandenbroeck recommends. She shares these questions you can ask when you’re unsure of where to go next:
- Are you just looking to release your frustrations and vent?
- Are you looking for comfort or reassurance?
- Do you have a specific goal in mind?
Vandenbroeck recommends asking open-ended questions to allow this person to freely express what’s on their mind and heart. “I give them a chance to evaluate what is most urgent for them at the moment and begin with that,” she says.
She adds that, rather than offering direct advice for what to do next, she simply helps the person evaluate and think through their options. “I think by constantly encouraging my clients to evaluate their situation and their opinions, they become more empowered and clear with what it is that they want to work toward,” she says.
5. Offer support and resources.
If you have the capacity for it, you may offer continuous support. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to communicate this and help seek other options. “When I have concerns that I know are beyond my skill set, I inform them and refer them to other support systems,” shares Vandenbroeck. “I ensure that they are aware of other alternative channels for support so that they are comforted by the idea that they are not alone.”
For us regular folks, that might just look like encouraging your friend to see a therapist if it makes sense for them, offering phone numbers to local mental health hotlines, or otherwise just offering your continued support in the coming days and weeks.
If you’re not sure of what else to say, may this compilation of quotes for various life situations inspire you.
- “Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.”
- “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” —Robert H. Schuller
- “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” —Maya Angelou
- “May the flowers remind us why the rain was so necessary.” —Xan Oku
- “These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” —Najwa Zebian
- “When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” —Peter Marshall
- “When things get tough, look at the people who love you! You will get energy from them.” —Jung Hoseok
- “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
- “You are on the floor crying, and you have been on the floor crying for days. And that is you being brave. That is you getting through it as best you know how. No one else can decide what your tough looks like.” —Clementine von Radics
- “If you remain calm in the midst of great chaos, it is the surest guarantee that it will eventually subside.” —Julie Andrews
- “When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best—that is inspiration.” —Robert Bresson
For a friend feeling down:
- “You have all my attention, and I’m here to listen with an open mind.”
- “All your thoughts and emotions are valid.”
- “Support is always available.”
- “And if today, all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you.”
- “Don’t forget that I will always stand by your side. I’ll always support your life, what you do, what you eat, the people you love. I’ll always support your dreams, your wish, your hope, your sadness, your anger, your temper, your situation.” —Kim Namjoon
- “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
- “You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective—it just means you’re human.” —David Mitchell
- “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” —A.A. Milne
- “Sometimes it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe.” —Yumi Sakugawa
- “Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” —Jacques Prevert
- “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.” —Charlie Chaplin
- “Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” —Cormac McCarthy
- “In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” —Abraham Maslow
- “Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.” —Alan Watts
- “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” —Maya Angelou
- “If you’re one of those people who has that little voice in the back of their mind saying, ‘Maybe I could do (fill in the blank),’ don’t tell it to be quiet. Give it a little room to grow, and try to find an environment it can grow in.” —Reese Witherspoon
- “I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in—even if it makes you vulnerable—amazing things can happen.” —Emma Watson
- “Fulfilment isn’t found over the rainbow—it’s found in the here and now. Today I define success by the fluidity with which I transcend emotional landmines and choose joy and gratitude instead.” —RuPaul
- “Effort makes you. You will regret someday if you don’t do your best now. Don’t think it’s too late but keep working on it. It takes time, but there’s nothing that gets worse due to practicing. So practice. You may get sad, but it’s evidence that you’re doing good.” —Jeon Jungkook
- “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.” —Mark Twain
- “Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.” —Marilyn Monroe
- “Start today creating a vision for yourself, your life, and your career. Bounce back from adversity and create what you want, rebuild, and rebrand. Tell yourself it’s possible along the way, have patience, and maintain peace with yourself during the process.” —Germany Kent
To brighten someone’s day:
- “Breathe. It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.”
- “Happiness comes in waves. It’ll find you again.”
- “Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re already doing a great job by just trying.”
- “You are enough just as you are.” —Meghan Markle
- “Worries. Everyone has worries. You might feel a little unhappy when you have them, but it will pass, and soon after, you’ll feel happy again.” —Kim Seokjin
- “Happiness is there for the taking—and making.” —Oprah Winfrey
- “Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen—that stillness becomes a radiance.” —Morgan Freeman
- “You are always stronger and more resourceful than you give yourself credit for.” —Rob Moore
- “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” —Stephen Hawking
- “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”
- “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” —Pablo Picasso
- “If it’s making you nervous, you’re doing it right.” —Childish Gambino
- “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” —Dolly Parton
- “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” —Theodore Roosevelt
- “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” —C.S. Lewis
- “You’re trying something new. That in itself is a reflection that you’re going in a good direction.” —Jung Hoseok
- “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” —Walt Whitman
- “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” —W. Clement Stone
- “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” —Nelson Mandela
- “Define what’s best for you. Do it without any regrets.”
- “Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” —Les Brown
- “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” —Robert Frost
- “I think that if you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control—but how you respond to it is in your control.” —Hillary Clinton
- “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” —Lucille Ball
- “Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” —Erol Ozan
- “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” —Bob Goff
- “Life is very interesting. In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.” —Drew Barrymore
- “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
- “If you can’t do anything about it, then let it go. Don’t be a prisoner to things you can’t change.” —Tony Gaskins
- “When thinking about life, remember this: no amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.”
For a person in recovery or healing:
- “Soon, when all is well, you’re going to look back on this period of your life and be so glad that you never gave up.” —Brittany Burgunder
- “Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” —Tori Amos
- “At any given moment you have the power to say ‘This is not how the story is going to end.” —Christine Mason Miller
- “Scars are not injuries. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” —China Miéville
- “Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.” —Linda Hogan
- “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” —Rumi
- “Relax. Breathe. It takes time, but there is a great joy to be had in moments of every day. Just remember, you’re learning new steps, a new dance.” —Lisa Frederiksen
- “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” —Confucius
- “Your illness doesn’t define you. Your strength and courage do.”
- “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
After a divorce or breakup:
- “The best way to get rid of the pain is to feel the pain. And when you feel the pain and go beyond it, you’ll see there’s a very intense love that is wanting to awaken itself.” —Deepak Chopra
- “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside, and something else will take its place.” —Lance Armstrong
- “If somebody hurts you, it’s okay to cry a river: Just remember to build a bridge and get over it.” —Taylor Swift
- “One part of wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore and letting it go.” —Jane Fonda
- “If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.” —Shannon L. Ader
- “No matter how much it hurts now, someday you will look back and realize your struggles changed your life for the better.”
- “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” —Mother Teresa
- “Sometimes, when you least expect it, you’ll realize that someone loved you. And that means that someone can love you again! And that will make you smile.” —Homer Simpson
- “Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning… Anyone can start over and make a new ending.” —Chico Xavier
- “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
- “You are enough.”
- “You are loved in so many ways.”
- “You are safe and surrounded by love and support.”
- “You can overcome anything.”
- “You are peaceful and whole.”
- “You deserve to take up space.”
- “You are free to speak about your needs and receive them abundantly.”
- “You are not shaped by your hardships.”
- “You are free from shame.”
- “You are always evolving.”
- “You have the courage to forgive yourself and let go of things you cannot change.”
(Here’s our full list of positive affirmations for more inspiration.)
Words are powerful tools for achieving a positive outcome, especially when paired with understanding and compassion. A simple “I’m here for you” can be enough to keep someone going.
But this also won’t always be the case. Don’t be afraid to seek help too when faced with more complex situations involving someone struggling with their mental health or someone battling depression. And remember, to be a pillar of strength, you need to look after yourself too.
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