What have you done today?
You may think that you’re being kind and asking about their day, but the phrasing of this is important to note.
You’re not asking how their day was or if they’re okay, you’re asking what they’re done. This then brings about some reactions:
- I must think of something productive or good that I did to show them
- They’re pressuring me, I’m letting them down
- They know I did nothing and I’m a failure
Asking what they did makes them feel ashamed. They feel like you’re expecting a lot that they aren’t giving to you right now.
Being in a rut means you’re questioning yourself and what you’re doing; that’s a time of indecision, fear, hopelessness, and depression. So, don’t expect or force them to be this productivity machine.
Have you found a new job yet?
Again, this is pressure! Of course, not all those in a rut are there because of job or career related reasons but it often is.
Asking if they’re found a job yet, found a new one, or found clients or basically “money” yet is just pressure and anxiety that they don’t need right now.
Yes, when you’re in a rut, there needs to be a certain amount of pressure and you need to be held accountable so that you don’t stay there forever.
But trust me, that person who’s in the rut probably questions and beats themselves up everyday. They don’t need you to do it, too, even without you realising you’re doing it.
When your friend or family member is going through a tough time, do me a favour and don’t take away from their experience. Don’t tell them that their problems are small. Don’t silence them.
Problems and personal struggles are, well, personal. We are the only ones who feel our personal pain. So don’t tell someone that they should stop moaning and just be happy.
You can encourage them to be grateful, switch their perspective, or see the good in their lives, but never tell them to stop moaning/stop being in pain.
That happened to me
A lot of people have a tendency to turn someone else’s problems into a story about their own.
Your cat died? I remember when my cat died, I was so sad, he ran away and we searched for months and then finally found out that he’d died and it tore me apart.
It’s very common for us to have shared experiences or emotions, after all, we’re all human. However, there’s a difference between empathy and making it all about you.
If you’re doing most of the talking, then something is wrong. This is about your friend or your loved one. Let them have the space to open up, ask for help, or whatever else they need.
You can say that you understand or that you’ve been through something similar. But don’t dive into your own story and feelings without being asked to. Don’t divert the conversation. Don’t make yourself the victim.
It’ll be fine
A common response to someone who’s struggling is “you’ll be fine” or “it’ll be fine.” This usually comes from someone who has no idea how it feels to be where you are.
Yeah, things should be fine in the end. Yes, my life will change. But don’t say that. It just dismisses how I feel. It kind of feels like blind optimism. The future may be brighter, but I’m in the present and it doesn’t feel too good right now.
Instead, say it’s okay. It’s okay that you’re in a rut. It’s okay that not everything is going according to plan. It’s okay and I’m here.