As human beings, it is our nature to want to comfort those around us and reassure them. The reasoning is twofold: first, we can sympathize with the feelings of anxiety that accompany many of life’s tough decisions. Secondly, of course, is that listening to someone express a serious doubt makes us VERY uncomfortable. Then you end up with a very uncomfortable person trying to comfort a person and that is a major recipe for disaster.
To avoid this awkwardness, I have developed a foolproof system for easing the anxiety that those around you might experience from time to time. If you stick to these three points, you are guaranteed to leave those around you in a much better mental state and, more importantly, avoid any unpleasant situations.
Use docile tones
According to a scientific study that I have just made up for the sake of this post, 78% of all stress is caused by unnecessary anxiety. When you are dealing with a friend who has a major problem, much of this stress can be relieved by adopting a calming tone. After all, if you are in the midst of a health scare, you would not want someone screaming, “DON’T WORRY! I’M SURE IT’S NOTHING!” directly in your face. This would likely increase your anxiety not to mention increasing the likelihood of you being punched in the face.
There is a fine line, however. If you adopt too soft of a tone, you will sound insincere. In the same scenario, whispering “Shhhh… there’s no reason to worry. It’s all going to be fine…” makes it sound like you are worried that too much energy in your speech could cause them to die right then.
Aim for somewhere between whispering and screaming in their face and you should be good.
Keep new information to a minimum
The last thing a person wants when they are worried is to be bombarded with new information. Actually, scratch that. The last thing a person wants when they are worried is for that worry to come to fruition, then to have someone punch them directly in the face for absolutely no reason. The second to last thing they want is more information.
All information does is cause confusion. Unless that information is “the thing you are worried about cannot every happen because it defies every law of physics and any sort of logic,” then all it will do is make that person even more worried.
There is no reason to worry that they need information. If they are worried about something, they have spent the better part of a day on Google looking up every combination of words that they think could give them a bit of relieving information. They are, by the time you get to them, virtual experts in whatever subject they are worried about. They could teach a college level course on that specific subject and do so fairly successfully.
Your best bet is to latch onto one thing and keep repeating it throughout your conversation. Yes, this is very annoying, but it is not as annoying as someone telling you that a symptom you are experiencing is actually common in many diseases and that MOST of these diseases do not lead to death.
Just Shut Up
This is actually a good rule of thumb for most situations. Talking can easily get you in trouble. In these situations, it can be absolutely detrimental to the process of comforting.
Telling someone there is no reason to be worried about a decision you have made is very good. It’s a great thing to do, in fact. The more you explain how there is no reason to be worried, the more worried a person gets. If you talk nonstop, there is nothing peaceful or relaxing. All it will do is cause more anxiety.
If you avoid talking at all, there is very little chance of you worsening the situation. Besides, most people just want you to listen to them anyway. It’s very hard to do that when you are running your jabber-hole.
Stick to this guide and odds are you will not make your worried friend even more worried. That’s about as strong of a result as you can expect.