Whether it’s a friend, coworker, or partner that’s having a bad day, it can sometimes be hard to know what to say to someone having a bad day.
You don’t want to say the wrong thing to make it worse, but you also want to cheer them up.
Here are some of the best examples of what to say to someone having a bad day so you can keep them in your proverbial back pocket to draw on when the people around you are just not feeling it.
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Ask if You Can Help: “Can I do anything to help make it better?”
Maybe your friend is having a bad day because they have too much to do and could really do with someone offering to help babysit the kids or look over their essay.
If you’re at a loss for what to say to someone having a bad day, don’t worry about what you should say so much as what questions you should ask.
Extend the offer to help in whatever way they need, which may be something like talking about it which we’ll get into later, or it may be something practical.
Not only does this show the person that you’re there for them if they need you, but it puts the ball in their court to tell you exactly what to do to help them.
In some cases, it is nice if you predict these things, ie, you should be able to anticipate the kind of help a new mom needs if she’s having a bad day – someone to send food, to come and do chores around the house, to offer to sit with the baby so she can have a shower, etc.
But if someone is just having a “run of the mill” bad day and they’re not in any particular life situation, ask them what they need!
They might not take you up on it, but the thought really does count.
Empathize: “I completely understand why you feel like that”
Sometimes, all people need is some empathy or gentle guidance on how to calm yourself when stressed.
They want to know that you understand why it sucks, that they’re in the right to feel sad or upset or mad.
They don’t need you to swoop in with your own stories or make it about you, but they want you to validate them in their feelings.
In fact, this is often what people are looking for when they tell you they’re having a bad day.
Sometimes, things can’t be “fixed” and you can offer help, but at the end of the day, they’re just overwhelmed and they want you to acknowledge that you understand why they’re overwhelmed and that they are allowed to feel whatever feelings they want.
This really extends into being a good listener and being able to show someone that you are able to relate to them on a “feelings” level and not just practical.
In fact, sometimes, it will feel better on their end just from telling you why they’re having a bad day, and trusting you with that information and knowing that you won’t make fun of them or downplay their emotions.
Take Their Mind Off It: “Gosh, that sucks!”, then change the subject
Depending on the reasoning behind the bad day, sometimes the best thing to say to someone having a bad day or the best thing to say to someone who is upset is actually something that will take their mind off of it.
Obviously don’t ignore what they say to you about their bad day and acknowledge that you heard them, but try to change the subject and get their mind on something else.
It can be as easy as sending them a funny video you found that you know they’ll like, or it could be a longer steering of the conversation towards other things in their life that aren’t involved in their bad day that you can get them to talk about.
This doesn’t work when the reason for their bad day is something tragic like a death in the family, obviously, but works well in a “normal life” bad day when it’s just a case of little things constantly going wrong or being off or the weather being horrible.
Be careful with this one, though, as you’ll want the person to feel as though you have heard them, not that you’re bored of them and hoping to change the subject.
Give Them Something to Look Forward To: “I’m sorry! Want to go get dinner later?”
If someone is having a bad day, it may be that they need something positive to look forward to.
You can always offer to make plans for later, either to hang out in person or to talk, which will give them something to hang on to as they get through the day.
Alternately, if someone is having a bad day because of a situation that will go on for a longer period of time, you could always make plans for an upcoming weekend (if they hate their job) or afternoon out away from the kids or family or whatever is making them go crazy.
Just infusing that bit of positivity in their day to help remind them that better times are ahead, even if it’s a phone call with you, can go a long way towards helping them get through their bad day.
Tell Them You’re Available: “I’m here if you want to vent/cry.”
Sometimes, people don’t want to open up too much about what’s going on and you can just tell they are having a bad day but aren’t talking about it.
Or there’s not much you can do besides talk to them about it as there’s nothing that can be fixed.
In this case, telling them that you’re available if they just want to vent is a really great idea.
It isn’t an offer they have to take you up on or feel obligated to do, it will give them the assurance that at least someone is there for them, and they can look forward to that emotional release if they do take you up on it.
Again, sometimes the best thing to say to someone having a bad day is that they’re allowed to be having a bad day and let them talk about it and get it out of their system.
Praise them: “You’re doing a great job dealing with this, seriously”
If someone is going through a particularly hard time in their life, saying positive thing sabout them and how they’re handling the situation or what kind of person they are can only ever be the right thing to say.
It might not fix anything or change their bad day, but giving someone support in terms of positive affirmations like these quotes about how you’re thinking about them is a nice way to try and lift their spirits and remind them that they’re doing a great job managing it all or that they have good qualities that make other people feel good or make them laugh.