18 “Helpful” Things People Say That Actually Make Everything Worse

18 “Helpful” Things People Say That Actually Make Everything Worse

Sometimes, you just need to vent without someone trying to fix everything. Unfortunately, well-meaning people often say things that minimize our feelings, even unintentionally. If you’re looking for a little validation and commiseration, here’s a list of the “helpful” phrases we could all live without.

“Cheer up! It could be worse.”

Yes, technically things COULD always be worse, but minimizing someone’s feelings in the moment isn’t helpful. It feels like the person isn’t taking your problems seriously. Instead of improving things, this comment often sparks frustration and a sense of not being understood. Emotional invalidation, as PsychCentral explains, can leave you feeling unimportant, unheard, and isolated.

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“You just need to stay positive!”

angry unhappy friends having public argument

Toxic positivity strikes again! Forcing a smile when you’re hurting doesn’t make the pain go away. It’s okay to feel down sometimes — allowing those emotions is part of processing them. Pressuring someone to put on a happy face can make them feel like their genuine feelings are unacceptable.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Struggle can build resilience, sure, but it’s also exhausting. Sometimes, you just want a break from being “strong.” Let yourself simply be a person who’s going through a tough time. Acknowledging the difficulty can be a relief when everyone expects you to soldier on.

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“You’re overreacting.”

Invalidating someone’s emotions is a surefire way to escalate a situation. Even if you think the reaction is disproportionate, respecting how they feel is crucial in that moment. Telling someone their feelings are wrong fuels defensiveness and shuts down the possibility of being heard.

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“At least you have…”

Gratitude is awesome, but unsolicited “at least” statements feel dismissive. It’s okay to feel bad even when you know you’re fortunate in other ways. Pain isn’t a competition. Sometimes, focusing on what’s good can be helpful, but only once the person feels their sadness is validated. As CNBC reports, toxic gratitude is actually a thing — and it’s really damaging.

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“I totally get how you feel.”

Unless you’ve walked a mile in their exact shoes, you probably don’t. And that’s okay! Sometimes, a simple “That really sucks” is more supportive than trying to compare experiences. Empathy is less about having identical experiences and more about understanding that their pain is real and significant to them.

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“Stop thinking about it and you’ll feel better.”

If only it were that easy! Telling someone to simply forget about their troubles is unrealistic and unhelpful. Distraction can be a tool, but it’s not a cure-all for difficult emotions. While dwelling on problems isn’t ideal, sometimes you need to process those thoughts and feelings before moving on.

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“Everything happens for a reason.”

When you’re deep in the suckitude, this feels callous. The universe isn’t plotting against you – sometimes bad stuff just happens. Meaning can come later, but doesn’t erase the hurt of the present. While this phrase aims for comfort, it can trigger frustration for someone seeking a cause and not wanting to blindly accept random misfortune.

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“You need to get over it already.”

Everyone grieves, heals, and processes at their own pace. Putting a timeline on someone’s pain is unfair and adds unnecessary pressure on top of the struggle they’re already facing. Rushing the healing process can backfire, making someone feel inadequate for not bouncing back at the speed others expect them to.

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“Just let it go.”

If forgiveness were that simple, the world would be a much more zen place. Letting go of resentment IS a healthy goal, but it’s a process, not a light switch you can just flip. Trying to force forgiveness before someone is ready can make those feelings of bitterness even worse, especially if they feel pressured to ‘fake’ forgiveness for the sake of pleasing others.

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“Have you tried… ?”

Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. But when someone’s venting, they often want to be HEARD, not fixed. Unsolicited advice isn’t helpful! Ask first: “Do you want advice, or just someone to listen?” Respecting their need in that moment might be more genuinely helpful than any tip you could give.

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“Time heals all wounds.”

Time helps, but often leaves scars. Healing takes work and sometimes outside help. This phrase can make people feel passive, like all they have to do is wait instead of taking action for their own well-being. It subtly downplays the effort and courage genuine healing takes, making it seem like you just sit around and get better with time.

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“You chose this.”

Blaming someone for their circumstances can be incredibly cruel. Even if bad decisions played a role, most people end up in tough spots due to a complex mix of factors, not solely their own choices. This kind of comment puts all the responsibility on the suffering person’s shoulders, making them feel guilty and powerless.

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“Other people have it so much worse.”

Perspective is valuable, but relative suffering does nothing to make someone’s problems go away. Struggling while knowing others have it worse can actually trigger guilt, making everything feel even heavier. Instead of improving things, this forces comparison, potentially fueling a sense of shame alongside their existing pain.

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“It’ll be a funny story someday.”

Maybe, eventually. In the heat of the moment, this rings hollow. It’s okay to acknowledge that some experiences just suck at the time, even if they become a funny anecdote later on. Minimizing the present hurt isn’t always the best approach when someone’s going through it.

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“Pull yourself together!”

Telling someone to bottle up their emotions is counterproductive and sometimes impossible. This demand for instant composure dismisses their inner struggle and can lead to shame. People struggling need space to express their feelings, not the pressure to perform happiness for the comfort of others.

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“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Well-intentioned, but ouch. For someone in crisis, it can make them feel like they’re failing if they’re struggling. Plus, it’s okay to need (and ask for) help! While this aims to inspire resilience, it could land as spiritual gaslighting when someone is genuinely at their breaking point.

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“…” (Silence)

Mother talking with her upset son at home

Sometimes, saying nothing is the worst. When someone shares their pain, they’re hoping for connection. Even a simple “I’m here for you” is better than awkward silence. Not knowing what to say is relatable, but a bit of effort to show you care goes a long way.

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Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.