Comforting Words - Weakness Leaving The Body
January 8, 2014

Comforting Words – Weakness Leaving The Body

Imagine this. You are having a bad day, a very bad day. It could be that your lover dumped you in pubic on a social network site. Maybe you have just lost the job you love; you had a future; you had an income; status; you even had your initials painted on a parking spot. You were heading for the big time. Or maybe you have just suffered bereavement. It might be a loved one, a friend, or perhaps that favourite Iguana that once bit your thumb – the one you even learned to love again after you came out of hospital having recovered from reptile bite sepsis. It could just be that your favourite sports team just got hammered against their most bitter rivals – we all know how much that hurts. Whatever the reason you are desolate and forlorn, with a thousand yard stare that says “Somebody help me please”. Then along comes that someone. They see you doe-eyed and distant. They want to help. You look pathetic and they want to sound empathetic. So what do they say? It’s the dreaded “comforting words”. What’s the worst thing they could possibly say?

Well, according to a survey by UK Insurance Company AXA, there are some phrases we absolutely hate people to use in these sorts of circumstances. Top of the list of all time most hated comforting words is “Get a grip”. I certainly would not find that comforting and if I did get a grip of anything it might just be the comforter’s nose as I fell an overwhelming desire to pull it off. Apparently 68 percent of the five thousand people interviewed for the survey found this particular phrase to be the most annoying.

Coming in close at second and third were “Pull yourself together” and “There there” with 66 and 64 per cent respectively.

A big surprise for me was the fourth most disliked phrase with 59 per cent which was “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. I am not surprised it was disliked so much, but I am amazed that anyone could be dumb enough to actually say it!

The rest of the top ten most hated comforting words were “Keep a stiff upper lip”, “There are plenty more fish in the sea”, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever”, “Worse things happen at sea” (do they??!!), “That’s too bad”, and finally “Chin up”.

So, what did the interviewees actually prefer for a verbal hug? Top of the survey’s most reassuring phrases was “One day we will laugh at this”. 49 per cent liked this one while 46 per cent liked “I really feel for you”. Other popular phrases for reassurance were “When one door closes another door opens”, “I know how you feel”, “We live and learn”, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, “What’s meant to be will be”, “Time heals all wounds”, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, and that old chestnut, hijacked so brilliantly by Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of life”.

I don’t know about you, but I reckon even some of the so-called reassuring phrases would have me squirming. Interestingly, the survey found that women were more affected by the chosen words than men but I was not at all surprised to find that about a quarter of British people did not know what to say at such times. There, there.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

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