“Hey it’ll be all right.” “These things always work out.” We’ve all heard these pat reassurances come from our mouths, and always with an intent to comfort and soothe. However, I’ve been thinking about these canned responses, about how they don’t perpetuate meaningful dialogue. In fact, they can unintentionally close the conversation. Why? Because forced positivity prioritizes my own comfort above your reality.

OK, that sounds extreme.

But is it? When I default to platitudes, I’m not acknowledging your experience. Rather, I’m soothing my own discomfort with the situation. Today, I overheard someone flippantly declare, “Oh c’mon, you know it’ll be fine.” Then, I watched his friend just shut down. The forced positivity left her no room. No room for her to ask, “but what if it isn’t?” Or… “how do you know?”

See, once we make a statement of forced positivity, the other party requires tremendous courage to keep the conversation going and reveal even deeper vulnerability. That’s why communication often comes to a halt.

So, next time forced begins bubbling to the surface, pause. Ask yourself, “how might I recognize their reality and help them feel seen in the moment?” 

Here are some alternatives to forced positivity:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “Can I check up on you next week?”
  • Send a follow up note or small token. “I was thinking about what you’re going through, just know I’m here.”

Rather than closing the conversation; these options leave room for ongoing dialogue. And that’s valuable because even if we may not know what help looks like right now, knowing someone is there to help whenever we do, can make all the difference.

For a related article, check out Check your state of heart

I also posted a quick vid about this, check it out on Instagram or Facebook.