General Question

SergeantQueen's avatar

How do you respond to someone sharing bad news/situations?

Asked by SergeantQueen (12840points) September 22nd, 2022

I just stay quiet.

I don’t like to say I’m sorry because that doesn’t feel genuine -its not my fault.

I also struggle with faking concern when it’s a total stranger.

I want to edit: I am not necessarily referring to like “my dad just died”.

I mean like a conflict between two people where one is hurt. It doesn’t involve me, from my perspective the situation is dumb. But I am expected to at least go “I’m sorry you are dealing with this” even though it’s like… but it’s not my problem.

And then I think well, how would I want someone to respond and I think unless I am asking for advice I would just want a listening ear, I don’t want them to talk at all. But people don’t seem to like that either even if they don’t ask for advice.

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26 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

I’m interested in how you interpret the word “sorry”, because people often say “sorry” not in the meaning of “I apologize for what happened” but more like “my condolences”. You seem to only see it in the former meaning.

SergeantQueen's avatar

I guess I take it as taking responsibility. Like I usually only ever say sorry if I messed up.

I would go like ” I feel bad you are going through this.” or “It’s not right you have to deal with this” usually.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@SergeantQueen you already found an alternative right there. Maybe instead of “sorry”, you can say something similar to what you just wrote “it’s so unfortunate you are going through that”. Maybe just a simple “I feel you” is good enough.

It’s interesting how you only associate sorry with apology. People usually just say sorry without that association just fine. I do that all the time too. But that’s besides the point here.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Mimishu1995 I know that’s an alternative, it just feels forced and weird to say.

Mimishu1995's avatar

What is weird? The word “sorry” or the alternative?

SergeantQueen's avatar

Alternatives. I can’t articulate why.

Mimishu1995's avatar

So your problem is not with how you say it, but that you don’t want to listen and provide condolences in the first place?

SergeantQueen's avatar

No that isn’t it. It’s that I’d prefer to say nothing. But some people don’t like that.

I am more of a person who wants to help and give advice, but some people don’t like that either. So I feel like all I want to do is give advice or if they don’t want advice just say nothing.

But when I feel like I have to say something it feels forced, not always because I don’t mean it but because it’s not my natural verbal response.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Sometimes it does feel forced, because the problem is just so dumb like coworker drama that I seriously don’t care about. But if it’s something serious I mean I still have emotions obviously I just struggle with reading the situation properly to figure out how to respond?

SergeantQueen's avatar

Like real life example:

I have a coworker who I have worked with so much I can pretty much tell how she is feeling based on how she walks, literally.

and when it comes to conversation:
I know if her tone of voice is a certain way she doesn’t want to talk.

But if its another certain way she wants me to just listen to her rant.

And if it’s another way, she wants advice. And she doesn’t have to ask, I just know.

I am looking for this:How can I just “know” how other people need me to respond?

My other coworker I thought was very mean at first, but once I learned her sarcasm I know she’s kidding.

I feel like I have to learn with everyone. Learn how to communicate, and how to read their sarcasm, learn how to respond.

I hate that, I just want every conversation to come naturally.

That’s what I am looking for advice on.

I can usually do this relatively quickly. I have people who always say “wow you get along with others so well”.

but it’s usually because I pick up on things and just kind of fake it. I am not sure how else to explain. It’s always a game of “how much of myself can I really be around this person?” and when the answer (9 times out of 10) is “not at all myself” I know I basically need to mirror them.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Let me know if I need to word it differently.

JLeslie's avatar

I used to feel odd saying “I’m sorry” in that type of situation also. Over time I’m comfortable with it.

If I feel able to help, I’ll say, “please let me know if I can do anything to help.” I probably wouldn’t say that in the particular example you gave, but when someone has say a medical problem or death in the family, that sort of thing.

Listening is really good actually. Being there to listen can be helpful to the person. Especially women tend to need to vent.

Depending on how well I know the person I might offer a story about something I went through that’s similar, to show some understanding, BUT this can backfire. Some people see this as switching the ficus onto yourself, or as competing for who has been through a worse time and diminishing what the upset person is going through.

Sometimes I just empathize with the feeling. Like if the person is stressed out about whatever to the point of panic, I might say, “I know what it’s like to feel so anxious, I hate that feeling.” Kind of legitimize what they are experiencing.

WhyNow's avatar

Unless it’s family right? On this site we are family.

You are the SERGEANT queen! Just say “get down and give me ten pushups!”
This is just an idea.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I feel like I have to learn with everyone. Learn how to communicate, and how to read their sarcasm, learn how to respond.

There is NO way to know off the bat how to know everything to want to know straight out of the gate unless they are close friends. I don’t see saying “I’m sorry” as apologizing to anyone…I see it as offering sympathy for their situation. When I really don’t care, I throw in an “I have NO idea what I’d do in that situation.” then I go into just listening mode. IF they push for advice, I respond “I have no clue/idea.” & I go back to listening. Those wanting you to feel sorry for them or really wanting advice will end the convo & move on to the next available person & you’re out of it without free & clear. Those not wanting advice will continue to talk expecting NO advice.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I usually say something like: “I’m sorry to hear that.” It is totally true. Something like: “Do you need help with the mowing?” “Do you need groceries? Need to go to the bank? Start your furnace? etc”
I’ve learned not to compare or say things like: “I know someone who had a similar situation and it turned out well.” And I never say: “You are in my prayers.”

longgone's avatar

“And then I think well, how would I want someone to respond and I think unless I am asking for advice I would just want a listening ear…”

That’s fine – that is what people often want. But if you’re offering a “listening ear”, by definition, you can’t be silent. Because that’s not listening – it’s just hearing.

If you pay close attention to anyone you’d consider a good listener, you’ll notice they’re doing a lot. They’re saying “Aw”, “Hmmm”, “Oh no!”, ”What?”, “Uh-huh”, and making other noncommital noises. They’re probably looking at the speaker, most likely nodding their head, using facial expressions to demonstrate their feelings, maybe mirroring body language. If you’re doing those things, there is no need for any special phrases. But if you’re literally still and silent like a statue, you are not allowing a connection to form, and I believe that most people would not enjoy opening up to you.

Maybe that’s okay, if you want to discourage those people from telling you about their problems. But do know that it can feel awful to be on the receiving end of someone hearing that you’re sad, and then refusing to connect. To close relationships, that is very damaging. Even if these people are literally strangers to you, it would be kinder to say you’re too busy to listen. And if they’re friends…well, if you want to stay friends, you need to show you care about their feelings.

Are you aware of the Still Face Experiment? Maybe read about that if you’re curious why most people react negatively to passive listening.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@longgone I do a lot of those things. People open up wayyy too much to me. Like the lady who stood at my register for almost 10 mins to tell me she’s pregnant but all the doctors say she isn’t.

That was a lot of “oh wows”.

So I guess I’m not silent I suppose I just meant I don’t really talk.

The little “oh really” and stuff like that are the most forced things ever and I struggle sometimes when I say them because my tone never comes out right and some people get mad :(

that’s another issue I have, I can’t seem to match my tone to my words/intentions.

jca2's avatar

If you don’t know exactly what to say to someone and phrase it in a way that feels “right,” you can always sum things up like “wow, you have a lot going on” or “I hope you have a better week this week,” or in the case of the man with the pregnant friend, “I hope they figure things out.”

KNOWITALL's avatar

I say ‘what can I do to help?’ They usually respond with ‘nothing but thanks for listening.’. Works for me.

I think some of us just are not into drama, so it’s sometimes hard to be sincere when it’s petty situations.
For my friends I add ‘hugs buddy’ like if a pet dies or something more serious.

Pandora's avatar

I usually go, Oh, my or Huh! Followed by, That’s not good. Or that sucks. People are usually looking for some sort of empathy if they are not looking for advice. Or that sounds like a real problem. Best of luck solving it, or I wouldn’t know what to do about that either. If I need to get away from them best of luck solving it is a good exit line.
I get what you are saying but saying I’m sorry to hear that. Is probably the closes to the truth since you are sorry to hear about their complaint and wish they voice it somewhere else.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Sometimes they just want to be heard.
“I hear you” works, and let them talk .

kritiper's avatar

I look them right in the eye and say “Well, SHIT THE BED!”

SergeantQueen's avatar

Like today. I got upset at my mom for complaining about my dad. She always does that, and I was about go to work. I asked her to please not do this, and when she got annoyed I stated I didn’t like it because she has solutions she doesn’t take. She can leave and she should but she won’t.

She didn’t like that I asked her to stop and she didn’t like that I told her she should leave. He’s abusive.

smudges's avatar

In that case, and especially if this has been going on a while and you’ve heard it all before, then I see nothing wrong at all with what you said. You were being honest. It’s her issue that she took offense. Something I learned a long time ago that helps me sort out stuff like this is, I ask myself, “Ok, is this my problem or theirs?” If it’s theirs, I let it go. If it’s mine, I figure out what I need to do.

As for your original question, I can’t help but wonder if you’re afraid of emotions. If so, I’m not criticizing, because I was for years…all the years I drank and drugged. So maybe you’re uncomfortable because you either aren’t sure what you’re feeling, or don’t like it. That could explain why you seem to vacillate between ‘I don’t care’ and ‘I care, but sort of not really’, and feeling like you want to escape when someone wants to talk about emotional stuff instead of just chitchat.

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