What You Shouldn't Say to Someone Who's Lost Their Job

Panic attack in public place. Woman having panic disorder in city. Psychology, solitude, fear or mental health problems concept.

It’s, unfortunately, a conversation more and more Americans are going to be having with friends and family so let’s take a moment to make sure we’re not adding insult to injury. When someone gets laid off, they’re in a vulnerable state and your words of comfort may do more harm than good if you’re not careful. Here’s what experts say to avoid telling someone that’s been laid off.

Stop being nosey.

Psychologist Kristin Bianchi says that“asking people for details pertaining to loss of employment is a boundary breach.” It’s nice that you're curious since it means you probably care about this person, but instead of prying, just let them decide how much they want to say about it. Bianchi would like to see us all “prioritize their privacy over our curiosity” right now.

“Think of all you have to be grateful for.”

This seems like a go-to for Moms across the country but here’s the thing. Just because there are worse situations, it doesn’t mean this layoff isn’t a bad one. Grief and trauma psychotherapist Patrick O’Malley believes that saying things like ‘but at least you’ve got this’ or ‘Thank goodness it’s not that.’ is all well-intended, “but it’s invalidating, minimizing to the individual’s story, because typically for many folks, this is loss and fear.” He says to avoid trying to fix their problem and just be there to listen instead.

“When I lost my job...” Shouldn’t need to be said but now isn’t the time to make it about you.

Bianchi says “this type of statement takes attention away from the person who has lost their job and puts them in a position of feeling as though they have to console us during their time of loss.” Nobody likes a one-upper, especially in quarantine.

Check out more unemployment conversation third rails to avoid HERE.


Photo: Getty Images

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