I say, “My marriage is in shambles.”
You say, “At least . . .you have a marriage.”
I say, “John flunked out of school.”
You say, “At least . . . Sue is a good student.”
I say, “I have cancer.”
“Well, at least it’s not the bad kind of cancer.”
“At least you will lose weight!”
“At least you look good bald.”
Why you shouldn’t say, “Well, at least…”
- It minimizes my feelings. I have feelings of terror and discomfort.
- It minimizes the energy, fortitude and courage that I need in order to deal with my cancer.
- It shows you are not a caring person. Sorry, but there it is. It sounds like you want to apply a “quick fix” to my situation so that you don’t have to really get involved in my pain and feelings.
- You are uncomfortable and are looking for a quick exit.
When someone is suffering, please do not say “Well, at least . . .” Instead, say, “I am so sorry” or “I can’t even imagine what this is like for you” or “I love you.” But, don’t say one of those “At least . . . ” sentences.
This video is a good illustration of the difference between empathy and sympathy: RSA Shorts – The Power of Empathy