Make Other People Happier By Acknowledging Their Unhappiness

When someone's feeling down, we often try to make them feel better by convincing them "it isn't that bad", or something similar. It seems, though, that this often makes things worse — instead, turn it around by simply acknowledging that they're unhappy.

It isn't reverse psychology per se, but it's remarkable how different some people may react to you agreeing with them than trying to "fix" their unhappiness:

Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return. That sure seemed to be what happened. Also, on my side, it's much more pleasant to feel calm, agreeable, and understanding.

. . .Recently, I undertook a MAJOR household project. Which, I admit, I did with about zero grace – but I did do it. My husband was well aware of my simmering resentment. Just before I was about to start the biggest part of it, he looked around and remarked, "Well, this doesn't look like it will be too tough." Wrong thing to say! Probably, he thought he was being comforting or encouraging. Instead, he enraged me. It would have been better to have acknowledged my feelings, by saying something like, "Wow, this looks like a huge job, it's great that you're going to do this."

While a lot of this generally depends on how the other person's brain works — everyone is different, after all — it's a dead simple idea that can produce surprising results. Hit the link to read more, and if you have your own surefire method for cheering up the melancholy, share it with us in the comments.

Make People Happier by Acknowledging That They're Not Feeling Happy [Psychology Today]


Comments

    This is the basic premise underlying empathic validation - a key process in psychotherapy. Having someone else see things from your perspective is ego-affirming... it normalises our feelings and makes them seem more manageable and less threatening. Also, inviting people to think about whether things "aren't that bad after all" can be useful if they are overestimating the negative consequences (i.e., "awfulising") of the situation, which is often our first response due to our overly-sensitive anxiety system (evolved to deal with physical threats). This is known as cognitive-reframing - but is obviously different to merely "telling people that things aren't so bad" :)

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