Saying “I know how you feel” to a friend or loved one can come off the wrong way. Everyone experiences loss and tragedy differently, so you can never truly know how someone feels. But if someone in your life is going through a hard time, you might want to let them know you’re there for them and that you understand, in some small way, what they might be experiencing.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Death
- What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Heartbreak or Divorce
- What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After an Injury or Diagnosis
- What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Job or Income Loss
- Other Alternatives for ‘I Know How You Feel’
- Why Shouldn’t You Say ‘I Know How You Feel’?
So how can you say “I know how you feel” without coming across as insensitive? Below, we’ll provide some examples of different, more supportive ways to express empathy for a loved one.
What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Death
One of the most common times people use the phrase “I know how you feel” is after a death. It’s a tempting way to express your sympathies if you’ve gone through a similar loss. At the same time, it’s important to think about how your loved one might be processing their loss differently than you did.
Here are some things you can say to someone after a death instead of “I know how you feel.”
1. I’m here if you want to talk.
You’re loved one might be waiting for the opportunity to share their feelings with someone who cares. You can support them by letting them know you’re available to listen.
2. You’re so strong, and I’m proud of you.
Instead of saying “I know how you feel,” you can let your loved one know how proud you are of them.
3. Tell me how you’re feeling.
Simply ask your friend to share how they’re feeling in the situation. This can allow you a deeper understanding and let you empathize even more.
4. I’m sorry you’re going through this.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this” lets your loved one know that you understand the situation is difficult. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like you assume you know how they feel. “I’m sorry you’re going through this” is also a great alternative to “I’m sorry for your loss.”
5. Please accept my sincere condolences.
Sometimes, a simple message of condolences and sympathy is best. This simple phrase works for close loved ones, as well as people you aren’t especially close to.
What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Heartbreak or Divorce
Another time people say “I know how you feel” is when a friend or loved one is going through a divorce. It’s tempting to try and commiserate with someone who’s close to you if you’ve gone through a divorce, too.
Even people who haven’t experienced a divorce might say “I know how you feel” as a way to express sympathy. But saying that you know how someone feels can make them feel like you’re assuming their feelings.
The options below are some alternative ways to support someone after a divorce, instead of saying “I know how you feel.”
6. I know you’ll get through this.
Sometimes the best way to help a grieving friend after a divorce is by reminding them of their own strength.
7. You’re always in my thoughts.
This statement lets your loved one know that you’re thinking about them and supporting them. It’s also a great alternative to “You’re in my thoughts and prayers” if you want to stay away from religious sentiments.
8. If you ever want to talk to a counselor, I can recommend a great one. And of course, I’m always here to lend an ear.
If you relied on professional talk-therapy to get through your own divorce, you might offer that information to your loved one. But make sure you don’t push it on them: counseling isn’t for everyone.
9. Just know that whatever you’re feeling is totally normal.
You can use your previous experience to help your friend or loved one get through their divorce by assuring them that all feelings are valid.
10. This must be incredibly hard.
This phrase is similar to “I know how you feel,” but it still leaves the door open for your loved one to share their own feelings. It doesn’t assume that you know exactly how they feel--just that you understand they’re going through a difficult experience.
What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After an Injury or Diagnosis
Medical diagnoses are different from everyone, and there are countless types of injuries and illnesses. No two diagnoses or injuries are exactly alike, and there’s no way to know how someone feels about their medical situation without asking them.
Saying “I know how you feel” might make a person feel like you’re comparing your medical experience to their own, which is rarely appropriate.
Here are some better ways of offering support after a medical diagnosis or injury instead of saying “I know how you feel.”
11. You are loved.
Being injured or receiving a medical diagnosis can be isolating. Just reminding your friend or family member know that their surrounded by people who love them can go a long way.
12. Your strength amazes me.
Instead of saying “I know how you feel,” you can acknowledge the qualities you admire in your friend or loved one.
13. Here’s a gift card to help get you through this.
Often, it’s tempting to say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” to someone who’s been diagnosed with an illness or injured. But many people don’t like to reach out and make use of such an open offer. You can make life easier by giving a gift card for something practical, like house-cleaning or food delivery.
14. You’ve got this.
This is another simple message that acknowledges your loved one’s personal strength and encourages them through a hard time.
15. If anyone can get through this, it’s you.
It’s tempting to express that you’ve “been there,” but sometimes it’s best not to bring up your experience when comforting a friend.
What to Say Instead of ‘I Know How You Feel’ After a Job or Income Loss
Just like death, divorce, and illness or injury, people process job and income loss in their own unique ways. Even if you’ve recently lost your job or income, too, saying “I know how you feel” likely isn’t the best option.
Here are some better ways to sympathize with someone who’s lost a job or income without saying “I know how you feel.”
16. This must be so stressful.
Losing a source of income is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. You can let your loved one know that you understand that fact, without saying you know exactly how they feel.
17. It gets better.
If you’ve been in the same situation and gotten through it, you might be able to assure your loved one that it gets better.
18. I’m so sorry.
Simply stating how sorry you are that they lost their job validates your loved one’s feelings and lets them know you’re there for them.
19. I know that job meant a lot to you.
Sometimes a person’s job is more meaningful than just income. Your loved one might be going through a grieving period over the loss of their normal schedule, too.
20. Do you want to talk about it?
Again, inviting your loved one to share their feelings is often the best way to offer support.
Other Alternatives for ‘I Know How You Feel’
There are many other situations in which you might be tempted to say, “I know how you feel.” When that’s the case, consider using one of the phrases below to support the person you care about, instead.
21. It’s going to be okay.
You might not be able to tell the future, but telling someone “It’s going to be okay” is often comforting and encouraging.
22. I’m sending you my best wishes.
This is a condolence message that can make your loved one feel supported and remind them that you’re thinking of them.
23. You can do this.
Again, sometimes it helps to offer a reminder that you see your loved one as a strong person who can get through even difficult situations.
24. I would love to hear how you’re feeling about everything.
Your loved one might feel like it’s a burden to “unload” their problems on you. But you can make it clear that you’d love to talk to them about what they’re going through.
25. I’m here for you.
Ultimately, you want to let your loved one know that you’re there for them. And sometimes that’s all you need to say.
Why Shouldn’t You Say ‘I Know How You Feel’?
Before you say, “I know how you feel” to someone going through a hard time, consider how it might affect that person.
Hearing “I know how you feel” can make a person feel like you’re not listening, or that you don’t understand. Even if you have the best intentions, you can’t know exactly how another person feels. It’s important to remember that the way you feel about a death in the family, a divorce, or the loss of your job is different from the way others feel about similar events in their lives.
In addition to using some of the phrases above in the place of “I know how you feel,” it’s always a good idea to ask the person you care about how they feel. Letting them talk, and listening to their unique experience, always goes further than comparing your situation to theirs.