1- "Don't worry. You'll be okay. It will all work out."
When someone loses their job, (unless they really didn't need that job) they're feeling scared, they don't know what will happen tomorrow or the next day. They may have a family or a mortgage, or kids in college.
They don't feel okay. They may be wondering, "Why me" or "How do you know I'll be ok." In the era of "positive thinking police," or "positive correctness," it sounds like you are invalidating their experience and their feelings. They may decide to avoid you next time they see you.
2- "Everyone's losing their Job these days. No one has any work"
If I just lost my job, and then heard that everyone else lost their job, I'd be even more scared. I'd think, if everyone is losing their jobs, how can I expect to ever find one.
3- "You think you have it bad? I just met an ex-CEO I used to work with who's homeless."
If I heard about a very successful CEO who was homeless, I'd immediately worry that I might end up homeless. I also might not believe your story.
4- "Stop being so negative. Be grateful for what you have."
It's true. Making a grateful list can you in a frame of mind to feel better and take constructive action. This is helpful, in other situations besides job loss. You might have a crisis in your business, didn't get the funding you need, or lost a large contract at the last minute, which put you in a financial crisis. But a grateful list is not the end solution. You can tell your friend that making the list is something that you and others have found helpful.
5- "Now you can find your passion."
What if your job was your passion? Too many people assume that when someone loses their job, it wasn't their passion. Maybe they feel so bad because they were doing what they loved.
6- "You always come out on top."
You can tell someone they always come out on top, but this might be one of those times, when they're not feeling it.
7- "Wow, too bad. Come sit in my new Bugati. You'll feel better."
Do I really need to explain? Email me if you don't get this one.
In this era of positive thinking and fear of other people's pain, it's easy to spout slogans as though they are solutions. Don't be afraid of how they may be feeling.
So, what would be helpful?
1- It would be most helpful to ask them how they're feeling and just listen. You can say, "That must have been quite a shock." The acknowledgement alone, can help make them feel better, and get ready to take the next step.
2- Remind them of their knowledge and skills, and that they're capable of getting more work, or rebuilding their business, or getting funding from another source. If you know of other times, they've successfully gotten through a similar situation, gently refresh their memory.
3- You can say "I know it's rough these days, but I know other people who lost their jobs, and were able to find new ones."
4- Tell them that you would love to help brainstorm ways they can network. Give them names of other contacts if you have some.
5- Ask them how you can help. They may want your ideas.
6- Validate how they feel by saying, "I know it may feel hopeless right now, but that doesn't mean it is hopeless." Always let them know that you have faith in their abilities and that there are actions they can take.
7- You can also help them make a list of other contacts, and resources that they can use to move forward.
Simma Lieberman is the author of Putting Diversity to Work and a member of The Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. Simma Lieberman Associates works to create workplace cultures where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business. Read the Inclusionist blog. Follow her on twitter: @theinclusionist. Subscribe to her newsletter.