We’ve all been there: either having lost a job ourselves or trying to comfort a friend or family member who has lost a job. And we’ve all been here: having heard or said something insensitive, unsympathetic or just plain stupid that makes the newly unemployed person feel even worse than he or she did before.
Empathy can be a tricky thing to navigate. How much can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and share that you know what he or she is feeling without making the situation about you and how you feel?
In my nine years of navigating the professional world, I have lost jobs and comforted people when they have lost theirs. So, without further ado, I present the nine things to never – and I mean NEVER – say to someone who has lost a job.
1. “This will be the best thing that ever happened to you.”
It doesn’t feel that way right now. And even if it does turn out to be a blessing in disguise later on, this is not what someone needs to hear at the moment. You may think it sounds motivational, but, honestly, it’s beyond patronizing
2. “Really, they did you a favor.”
Because feeling indebted to someone who just took away their livelihood and stability is EXACTLY what they need right now.
3. “I know you’re going to land on your feet.”
That doesn’t mean they’re not falling.
4. “I’m not worried about you.”
Why not? They’re worried. They’re worried about money, health insurance, how to explain why they were fired in future interviews, if they get any interviews at all… You might think you’re saying that you’re confident in their skills and talents, but it actualy sounds like you’re ignoring the pathetic state of the economy and job market in America. Honestly, they want you to be worried about them.
5. “At least you have savings/can go on COBRA/have your apartment…”
6. “Think about the bigger picture.”
Don’t you DARE get holier than thou when you still have your health insurance and a 401K.
7. “You should write a book/start a blog/set up a Twitter account…”
You’re trying to help, and that’s wonderful. And if your friend is too worked up to appreciate it right now, he/she will later. But losing a job rocks people to their cores, and they often feel overwhelmed with everything they think they need to do to find employment again. You may think you’re being helpful by offering suggestions, but here’s a gentle suggestion: Don’t offer up what you think they should do unless they ask you.
8. “Whatever you do, stay calm.”
“Calm down” is the least effective phrase in the English vocabulary. Don’t say it.
9. After he/she gets a new job: “Well, it’s over.”
That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and that doesn’t mean it didn’t suck. And it doesn’t mean they don’t need time to grieve and work through anger and sadness. A new paycheck doesn’t erase those feelings. Give them time.