When someone you care about is having a bad day, it can be challenging to find the right words to say. We often have the instinct to offer advice or try to fix things for the person. Unfortunately, that can make someone feel unheard and even worse.
It is likely that they’ve either thought through some of the problem solving on their own or are feeling too emotional to be able to think rationally about the situation.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day at Work
- What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day at School
- What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day During a Rough Patch or Tragedy
The first thing anyone needs when they’re emotions are running high is some deregulation. Having a safe person to express your feelings to is a great way to decompress. Consider it an honor if the person chose you!
Unless someone asks for advice, the best thing you can do is listen, validate, empathize, and be there for them in any way they need. To help out, we’ve put together a list of some tried and true phrases you can use when someone you care about is having a bad day.
What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day at Work
When a friend or loved one calls after a tough day at work, they are likely looking for some comfort from someone they trust.
Whether they want to hang out, vent, or are seeking advice, here are some things you can say to support them.
1. “Let’s grab a bite.”
Offering to take them out for some after-work food or a drink is a great way to show your support. Perhaps they’ll want to vent about their day, or maybe they just need a fun night out to relax and refresh.
2. “Tomorrow’s a new day.”
After you listen to the details of their terrible day, a hug, and a reminder that tomorrow’s a new day might be all they need. Unless they ask for advice, refrain from giving it.
3. “That stinks!”
Validation goes a very long way when someone had a bad day at work. Let them get it all out and then offer some empathy.
4. “I think you’re amazing.”
This is a good phrase to choose if they are feeling really down on themselves after a bad day at work.
Remind them you think they’re amazing, and maybe even let them know they’re the best part of your day. Sometimes feeling loved and cared for can really lift someone’s spirits and make them feel like they’re enough.
5. “What can we do that will cheer you up?”
Maybe they just want to zone out in front of the TV, or maybe they want to go for a run to burn off their frustration.
Offer to support them by doing something together that will make them feel better. When in doubt, ice cream is always a good pick-me-up!
6. Just listen.
Sometimes, a listening ear does the trick. If they ask for advice, definitely give it. If they don’t, just listen, validate, and encourage.
You can always ask if there’s anything you can do to support them. If you can’t be with them and are talking over the phone, here are some ways to care for someone from afar.
What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day at School
One of the most difficult (and inevitable) experiences that we face as parents is when our kids suffer. We, of course, want to protect them from hurting. However, learning how to deal with bad days is an important life lesson.
When our kids come home from school upset, there are things we can do and say that help teach them emotional awareness and regulation, problem-solving, and resiliency.
The best thing we can do for our children is not to fix their problems or tell them what to do, but rather to give them the tools and support so that they can be their own problem-solvers.
7. “Let’s have some hot cocoa.”
Your kiddo might not feel up to talking. Just show them you’re here if they need you. Snuggle up with some hot cocoa or their favorite comforting beverage.
You never know, some TLC and quiet time with you might be just what they need to open up and let you know what’s going on. Problem-solving over a soothing, warm beverage is a great lifelong habit to develop.
8. “I’m going to make your favorite dinner.”
Similarly to the hot cocoa idea, this one shows your little one you love them, recognize that they’ve had a bad day, and want to do something nice for them. Perhaps once their belly is full of their favorite dinner, they’ll be keener to share what’s on their mind.
While you’re making dinner, and they’re hauled up in their room feeling their feelings, send them a sweet cheer-up text to soften them up a bit.
9. “Sounds like a really tough day. I’m sorry, and I love you.”
Sometimes validation and empathy are all your kiddo needs. They’re often not looking for advice. This phrase followed up with a hug is a winning combination.
10. “You seem frustrated.”
This is an excellent way to reflect on your child’s emotional state and help them recognize their own feelings.
If they are feeling frustrated, this phrase is likely to get them talking about why. If they’re not frustrated, it can also help them to say, “no, it’s not that I’m frustrated, I’m…” and get them into a problem-solving mode all on their own.
11. “What do you want to do tonight?”
After a tough day at school, it might be nice for your child to get to pick the family activity for the night. Once they finish their homework, maybe they want to watch their favorite movie or play a board game. Alone time is okay too.
Letting them have a safe space to feel their feelings and still have fun with their family who loves them is super valuable. We want our homes to be a refuge for our kids, and not every problem or bad day needs to be fixed or even discussed.
12. “Here are some ways I think I could help. Would any of those interest you?”
Often, when kids have a bad day at school, the last thing they need is advice. As parents, we always want to fix things and help our kids to fix things. We love them, have much more life experience, and want to teach them. Unfortunately, giving advice can push our kids away if they haven’t asked for it.
If your kid asks for advice, you can use this phrase. Or, if they don’t ask for advice, but you feel like it would be appropriate for you to step in, this is a good way to do so. This leaves them in the driver’s seat and gives them a choice. You are offering support on their terms, and that is super empowering.
What to Say When Someone Had a Bad Day During a Rough Patch or Tragedy
Knowing what to say when someone is having a tough time can be tricky. When your friend or loved one is down in the dumps, the last thing you want to do is say something that makes them feel worse.
Here are some safe and empathetic things to say when someone you care about is going through a rough patch.
13. ”I’m here for you.”
Simply let them know you’re here and available to them for whatever they need. Whether it’s an ear to listen, shoulder to cry on, or someone to help with anything at all, let them know they can count on you.
14. “You are so strong.”
Acknowledge that what they’re going through is not easy, but that they are incredibly strong. A little empathy and encouragement go a long way.
15. “Today was a really tough day.”
Sometimes saying it out loud can help. It validates the person’s rough day, and may also help them feel like tomorrow’s a new day without you having to say so. Don’t be surprised if tears follow this one. A hug is always a good follow-up!
16. “I’ve been thinking of you.”
If you can’t be with them in person, send them a ‘thinking of you’ message to let them know they’re on your mind during their rough patch.
You can use a ‘thinking of you’ message to ask someone how they’re doing and open up some dialogue. Once you get talking, you can see if there’s anything you can do to help.
17. “I’m only a phone call away.”
This is another way to let someone know that you’re available at the drop of a hat if they need you. Going through a rough patch or tragedy can feel extremely lonely. Knowing you have friends to rely on is very comforting.
18. “I have no words to express my sadness.”
Sometimes when you hear terrible news, it’s okay to express that you’re stunned and speechless.
When there truly are no right words, saying so can give significance to how tragic the situation is. You can always follow this up with a hug or offer of support.
Speak from the Heart
When someone is having a bad day or going through a difficult time, there isn’t one perfect thing to say. The most important thing you can do is speak from the heart.
When people are feeling especially vulnerable, they can often sense insincerity. Don’t try to package your words perfectly. If you are open, warm, and speak from a place of kindness, you are unlikely to offend. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not say anything at all, but just sit quietly with someone and listen.