(Exactly) What to Say to Someone who Is Crying

If there’s one area where many people struggle, it’s knowing what to say to someone who is crying.

Not all of us are empaths who can easily find the right words to say to someone who is upset, and many people may even be uncomfortable by it.

This also differs based on their relationship with them.

If your wife is crying, that’s much different than if your coworker is or your dad or your children.

In this guide to what to say to someone who is crying, we’re going to go over all of the different things you can say in that moment and in what situations you should use them in.

You don’t have to stand there awkwardly if you don’t want to!

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1. Nothing, Just Hug Them or Put a Hand on Their Shoulder

Sometimes, the best thing to say to someone who is crying is nothing.

If someone has had a huge trauma or just learned of the lost of a loved one, there is nothing you can say in that moment that is going to help.

All you can do is either hug them or put your hand on their shoulder or sit with them and physically be there for support.

They might be crying too hard to hear you if you say anything anyway, and your words right now mean little, but being there with them means a lot.

If you’re unsure what to say when someone is crying, this is always a fine default.

Be physically comforting, but say nothing for awhile while they get it out.

2. Tell Them You’re Sorry

It’s cliche, but saying you’re sorry or some other related words of empathy are the basic go-tos when someone is crying.

This can be applied in almost any situation and in any relationship, whether your employee is crying because their pet died or your sister is crying because someone broke up with her.

Tell them that you are so sorry for their loss/experience and in those words, you’re telling them that you have sympathy or empathy for them and you are thinking of them.

3. Ask if There’s Anything You Can Do to Help

If someone is crying because they’re stressed out or something else is going on in their life, you can also ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

Not necessarily “is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” but just, “is there anything I can do to help?”

Maybe they would really need someone to just be there for them when they go to pick up their pet from the vet or maybe they really need you to call their mom for them as they can’t face speaking with her right now to tell her she needs to come to the hospital.

Sometimes, people don’t know what will help them in that moment, which is when you can then offer ways in which you can help or tell them that you will be doing XYZ for them.

This isn’t appropriate in a situation like if someone has a parent that dies and you immediately tell them you’re going to create a meal train for them while they’re crying, but if they are in a stressful situation or maybe a student panicking about deadlines that is crying, you can use that opportunity to tell them that you will extend the deadline or you will do XYZ for them which is practical and can make them feel better in that moment.

4. Remind Them That They Don’t Have to Say Anything, but You Will Listen If They Do

Just by being physically comforting and telling someone that you will listen to them if you want to talk is really nice and the world needs more people who listen.

Sometimes, you won’t know why someone is crying, so this is a good option to use when you’re not actually sure what to be sorry about or how you can help them.

As humans, we want to be listened to and understood, and knowing that you are willing to take the time to hear what they are upset about is a great way to comfort someone.

It’s also helpful to remind them that they don’t need to tell you anything, as sometimes the emotion can overcome someone about something that they actually don’t want to talk about.

You don’t want to pry.

5. If Possible, Give Them Hope for the Future

If someone is in a situation where you know there is hope for the future, remind them of that and say some positive words about how they’re going to get through it and staying positive when things are bad.

For instance, if someone is crying over needing to have surgery for their torn ACL, tell them that they’re going to get through it and be able to play sports again (if that is an option you know is true).

Obviously you can never guarantee everything to everyone, but no one is going to come back to you and tell you that you tried to give them hope and be mad about it.

Of course, if someone is suffering a loss, you don’t want to say “don’t worry, you’ll feel better about it one day!”

Be sensitive about it.

6. Give Them Kind Permission to Go Excuse Themselves

If you are a boss, for instance, and your employee is crying at the checkout counter they’re working, sometimes the nicest thing you can do for something who is crying is to just say, “Hey, I’ll get someone to cover you, feel free to go to the breakroom and take all the time you need.”

You don’t want to come across like you’re saying, “get out of here,” but that you’re looking out for them and kindly offering to let them go compose themselves.

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