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Avoid Toxic Clichés: What to Say Instead

by BetterSleep
May 13 • 4 min read

Everyone feels sad or lonely sometimes. And when this happens we need the support of our friends and family. But often, well-wishers can make us feel worse.

While many don’t realize they’re doing it, the use of toxic positivity generalizes the optimistic, happy state and makes us feel like we don’t have the right to feel a certain way.

Some statements come across as positive, but in the end can provoke depressing emotions. Here are some toxic clichés to avoid and what to say instead.

Instead of: You’ll get over it.

Say: It’s going to be hard, but I believe in you.

Saying “you’ll get over it” is seen as dismissive, and minimizes the problem. If your friend has been let down, they don’t want to be shamed into thinking they don’t have the right to feel bad. Acknowledge that the situation is difficult and let your friend know they can get through it, with your support.

Instead of: It could be worse.

Say: That’s a tough situation, I’m here if you need me.

Yes, your friend’s situation might not be as bad as some of the current worldwide issues. But saying “it could be worse” doesn’t help and devalues their feelings. Let your friend know you’re there, when and if, they need to talk.

Instead of: Failure is not an option.

Say: Failure is a part of growth.

Saying “failure is not an option” can make someone want to give up if they actually do fail. Make sure that you voice that it’s ok to fail and how successful people fail many times before they hit the big time.

Instead of: Don’t worry, be happy!

Say: It’s ok not to be ok.

Telling someone they shouldn’t worry and that they need to be happy all the time can seriously backfire. This might lead them to clam up and only let the sad feelings out when alone. If a friend is struggling, tell them it’s ok to not be ok and that you’re happy to talk things over.

Instead of: I never really liked him/her.

Say: You deserve a person that appreciates you and you will find him/her.

Saying “I never really liked him/her” doesn’t solve the situation and can make your friend doubt themselves and wonder why you didn’t tell them your feelings. Try to avoid slagging off the person they really liked and be understanding, while painting a positive picture for the future.

Instead of: Everything happens for a reason.

Say: I’m sorry you’re going through this.

It’s not helpful to say “everything happens for a reason” in tragic circumstances. No one can comprehend why terrible things happen and making out there is some reason for it, can be too much to bear. Show your friend support and let them know you are there to talk, anytime.

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