When someone confides in you — about anything from truly awful to just an average shitty day — the next words out of your mouth should never, ever be: “At least...”
Whatever comes after “At least...” is minimising at best and offensive at worst.
I’ve got such a bad cold. At least it’s not the flu.
I lost my job today. At least you get to have a break from working.
I had a miscarriage. At least you know you can get pregnant.
Most people who use “At least...” to try to comfort are well-meaning. They think they’re being helpful by pointing out the “bright side”. But people in pain do not want to see the bright side; they want to feel heard and understood.
“At least” might be a sympathetic thing to say, but it’s not empathetic. The difference is substantial, according to Brené Brown, a research professor who has studied courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She explains it so well here in this animated short:
Focus on connecting with the person who is confiding, Brown says. If you don’t know what to say, she suggests this: “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.”
Another classic that never goes out of style: “I’m so sorry.”