Sympathy – When Words Fail You

Let’s face it; sympathizing can be hard for some and empathy can be a stranger in a room full of people. You care for your loved ones and desperately want to ease their pain. But always struggle with the right words. In an effort to come up with something meaningful, you often end up with those clichéd phrases that don’t remotely reflect what you feel. And makes you come across as someone who’s just filling in the blanks. This is one of those situations where if you don’t use the right words you come across as insensitive.

It was the Civil Rights Movement figure Maya Angelou who aptly said

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

There is no doubt, the right words, in the right tone, at the right time can make a world of difference.

Common phrases used to console a person like “It’s for the best”, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “I know how you feel, I felt the same way when…” may sound judgmental. But instead a sympathy note like “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I am thinking of you” can be more honest and significant.

However, for those who stand helpless in front of a person in mourning, gestures can take the lead and be the knight in shining armor. At times reaching out and holding a hand says a lot more than words can ever do.

For instance, someone in the family just lost their job. Saying ‘it’s tough out there’ isn’t going to help them. However, by distributing their resume you not only give them a chance to stand up on their two feet, you are also actively doing something to help them out.

Another scenario where you can genuinely show you care is when someone goes through a divorce or a break up. Instead of saying ‘he/she wasn’t good enough for you’, take them out for lunch or plan an activity that takes their mind off their heartbreak.

Your friend is under the weather, what do you think would make them feel good? Dwelling on the sickness saying something like ‘hope you get better’ or bringing a box of chocolate and flowers to lift the spirits?

Yes! Chocolates can actually make up for the old tired clichéd statements. It has been given as a sympathy gift for years. Perhaps it has something to do with its mood lifting properties.

So anyone who thought chocolate only knew love and happiness is wrong.

Mankind in its darkest hour has turned to this delicacy for both comfort and strength. During the First World War, it was ‘Chocolate’ that gave the brave men in trenches a taste of home and boosted their morale when they missed their family and friends. Also during 1914, chocolates were distributed to all York soldiers in POW camps, training, in trenches and at sea. This led to what history remembers as the ‘Chocolate Letters’. These letters, photographs of the army men, footages and artifacts are still preserved at North Yorkshire and have been exhibited for the general public a couple of times.

So the next time someone close to you needs a kind ear and a friendly shoulder don’t ruin it by saying the wrong thing. Let a kind gesture and chocolate do the talking for you.