The Best Ways To Comfort Someone Who Is Sad Or Crying

When someone is clearly upset and very emotional, it’s hard to know how to comfort them. It’s tough seeing someone you care about break down in tears, and while you probably can’t fix the problem that led them to cry, there are some things you can do to help them feel better — or at least a bit less sad.

1. Be there for them.

Portrait of a young woman consoling her sad friend at home

One of the best ways to comfort someone who’s feeling down is simply to be there. Show them that you’re ready to listen, to offer a shoulder, and to provide a comforting presence. Your presence alone can offer them a sense of security and stability. You don’t even have to say anything at all — sometimes just sitting quietly together is enough to help them feel less alone.

2. Respect their space.

While it’s important to be there for the person, it’s equally important to give them space and not cross their boundaries. Everyone processes emotions differently, and some people may need solitude to cope. Respecting their need for space can help them feel understood and supported. If they’re the type of person who’s more introverted and self-contained, this may be the case.

3. Offer a listening ear.

Sometimes people just need to vent. Offering to be a sounding board can be incredibly comforting to someone who’s sad or crying. By simply listening, you can provide them with a sense of relief and understanding. Let them say whatever’s on their mind and heart and simply hear them out without judging or interrupting. That can make a huge difference.

4. Provide reassurances when you can.

Remind them that it’s okay to feel sad and that they’re not alone. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that things will get better. Your reassurances can provide them with a sense of hope and optimism. Of course, you don’t want to try to placate them with cliche or meaningless platitudes, so make sure anything you’re saying is genuine.

5. Be patient.

Understand that it takes time for people to work through their emotions. Don’t rush them or pressure them to “get over it” quickly. Your patience can provide them with a sense of calm and reassurance when they’re really struggling. You might not get why they’re so upset or hanging onto things for so long, but be willing to wait it out with them anyway.

6. Use comforting touch.

If the person is comfortable with it, a comforting touch like a hug, pat on the back, or holding hands can be very soothing. Physical comfort can provide a sense of calm and closeness. That being said, if they’re not very touchy-feely or would find this contact unwelcome or uncomfortable, don’t force it.

7. Help with practical matters.

If their sadness or crying is due to a specific problem, offer to help in practical ways. This could be anything from helping with errands to offering advice on a problem. A meaningful gesture like this can lighten their load and provide tangible help. It won’t always be possible, but when it is, chip in.

8. Encourage professional help.

Senior mother consoling her daughter at home

If their sadness continues for a prolonged period, encourage them to seek professional help from a psychologist or therapist. There’s no shame in this, and your encouragement can guide them towards getting the help they need when their emotions become overwhelming.

9. Stay consistent.

Consistency is key. Continue to check in on them, even after their initial bout of sadness. Your ongoing support can show them that they’re cared for and not alone. Ask them how they’re feeling in the hours or days after their upset. However, if they assure you that they’re okay and have moved on, take them at their word and don’t continue to harp on about it.

10. Use words of comfort.

Sometimes, comforting words can be incredibly soothing. Remind them of their strengths, their worth, and the love people have for them. Your comforting words can provide them with a sense of reassurance and self-worth. Again, they key here is to assure you’re being genuine and speaking from the heart.

11. Use distraction techniques.

If the person is open to it, try to distract them from their sadness. Doing something fun together or watching a favorite movie can help take their mind off things. Picture yourself as their personal entertainer and bring a bit of levity to the situation. There might be occasions when this is inappropriate (say, for instance, if they’ve just lost someone they care about), but in most cases, it can really change the mood in meaningful ways.

12. Encourage healthy habits.

Gently encourage them to take care of their physical health. Maintaining good sleep, eating healthy, and regular exercise can help improve their mental state. Consider yourself as their wellness coach, guiding them towards a balanced lifestyle during tough times. They may not be in the best place for that, but maybe you can help with that. Offer to go for a walk with them or to make them one of their favorite meals.

13. Validate their feelings.

Make sure that you validate their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do. Avoid phrases like “cheer up” or “it’s not that bad,” which can make them feel misunderstood. Be supportive by validating their feelings and giving them the space to express themselves.

14. Keep your promises.

If you make a promise to be there for them or do something specific, make sure you follow through. This builds trust and shows that you’re reliable. Uphold your commitments so that you establish yourself as a dependable figure in their life. When they’re sad, they’ll take comfort knowing that you’re always by their side.

15. Be empathetic, not sympathetic.

Empathy is about understanding and sharing someone else’s feelings, while sympathy is merely acknowledging them. Try to empathize with their situation, rather than offering sympathy. Strive to truly understand their emotional state, making an effort to share in their feelings rather than just recognizing them.

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Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill