Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What to say to sick people and depressed people

What to say to sick people 
  1. Offer sympathy.  You can say, "I'm sorry you're sick," or "that sucks."  Sometimes you can say, "I hope you feel better soon" but that is not always appropriate, for example, if the person has an illness that will only get worse.
  2. Check in with the person regularly.  (But don't keep waking them up when they are trying to sleep.) Ask how they are.  Show that you are thinking of them, that they aren't alone.
  3. Offer help.  Sometimes you can say "let me know if you need anything" or "what can I do to help you?" Sometimes it is hard for the person to formulate what they need and who to ask, so sometimes it is helpful if you tell them what you will do for them, such as, "I'd like to pick up your medication at the pharmacy for you," or "I'd like to come over and make you some chicken soup."  If you have done #2, then you should have a pretty good idea of what the person needs.  It can be helpful to say what you'd like to do, rather than ask, if the person might hesitate to impose on you.  On the other hand, you also have to refrain from being too pushy, and make sure there is room for the person to decline your offer if it's not what they want.  There are times when a sick person doesn't want help, they just want to be left alone to sleep.
  4. Refrain from speculating about the illness's causes or cures.  When you say, "you would feel better if you [insert your pet remedy]," you are implying that the illness is the fault of the victim, for failing to follow your advice.  There are times when you can get away with offering a cure, if you do it right (e.g. "When I was sick, ginger tea helped me.  Would you like me to make some for you?"), but be careful.
  5. The person doesn't want to feel like a pathetic invalid.  Treat them like the funny, smart, wise, compassionate person you know they are.
What to say to depressed people
  1. Don't be rational and reasonable.  
  2. Don't explain why the person should not feel depressed.  Don't explain that the person has a lot of good things going for them.
  3. Don't explain how to fix the problem the person is depressed about.
  4. Offer sympathy.  You can say, "I'm sorry things are tough for you now."
  5. Offer comfort, such as a hug, a cup of tea.
  6. Treat them like the funny, smart, wise, compassionate person you know they are.  Give them something larger than themselves to think about.  

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