Communication 101: Stop Telling Your Friends, “You Got This”

October 31, 2022

Two years ago, I posted about how I hated when people told me, “you got this.” It was hard for me to articulate exactly why, but the phrase had always rubbed me the wrong way.

I immediately got all kinds of reactions from people.

The worst ones comments were:

  1. the guy who told me that my reaction wasn’t normal because I had depression.
  2. a fellow student from my coaching school who messaged me privately to tell me I was seeking attention. She then tried to coach me without my permission.

I remember feeling terrible after seeing these comments, like there was something wrong with me.

Fast forward to the present, and I now know why I’ve always disliked that phrase so much.

(I also noticed that my coaching school recommends that coaches refrain from making statements like this one, except at the very end of a session. The guidance is to use this sparingly.)

What is reassuring?

Think about the last time someone told you about something difficult that they were going through.

What was your response? Was it something like:

- you’ll be fine
- you have nothing to worry about
- everything is gonna be ok
- you've got this

These responses fall in the category of reassuring someone.

For some people hearing that is good enough, especially if their fear is more surface level. That’s all they need.

But for people whose fears run deeper, they honestly don’t believe that everything will be fine. They don’t think that everything will be ok.

Offering reassurances to these people that things will be fine or ok isn’t going to change anything. It’s like putting makeup over a big zit. You’re just covering up the real issue.

I know that you were just trying to help them feel better.

But what happens is this type of response often makes that person feel dismissed, like they’re not allowed to talk about it.

That’s how they end up feeling alone.

Why do we do it? Most of us are uncomfortable experiencing negative emotions. We simply don't know how to just be there for someone, without trying to shove them into a "better place."

What we don't realize, however, is that all people need time to process. Offering a reassurance can be a welcome gesture later on. When you offer it too early, you run the risk of coming across condescending or dismissive. Because of this, your friend might not feel safe enough to be honest about what they're going through.

How to be a better friend

The next time someone talks to you about a challenge or a difficulty they’re experiencing, this is how you can be a better friend.

Instead of reassuring them, acknowledge their experience. Doing this lets the person know that you're listening, and you care.

acknowledge instead of reassure

This gives that person the space to process, which is what they need before they can move on to feeling better and then letting go.

How to acknowledge someone

If you're not sure how to acknowledge someone, the classic techniques include summarizing the main point of what they said, using phrases like these:

  • So you're saying...
  • I'm hearing...
  • In a nutshell...

Or keep it super simple, like this:

  • That must have been hard for you.
  • You've been through a lot this year.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. This will help get you out of that fixer mindset so you can just listen.

Let your friend feel their feelings

Listening is the number one thing that actually helps people feel better. When people are given the time to process, and they feel seen and heard, they will naturally move towards a solution so they can let go. Once they're in this new space, your reassurances will be more welcome.

The key for you, if you truly want to be supportive, is to not rush them through these phases.

If for some reason you're unable to support your friend in this capacity, it's better for you to just say that, instead of using a reassurance to sweep everything under the rug.

Remember, it's not your job to fix someone's feelings. If you find yourself trying to push someone out of their messy feelings, ask yourself, is it for them? Or is it for yourself?

If you enjoyed this post about communication, you might find communication coaching useful. Contact me if you're interested in coaching or bringing me on for a workshop.

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