The first rule is comfort in, dump out

chart-comfort in-dump out

How Not to Say The Wrong Thing by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman

It works in all kinds of crises – medical, legal, even existential. It’s the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out.

…Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

Source: SwissMiss


  1. i love these rings of hope, kindness, empathy, compassion and thoughtfulness. a beautiful way to look at how to really be of service to someone in need.


  2. I had to read this twice (at first I thought it was a picture of a colon – I swear – can’t believe I just admitted that). I think the point is great and accurate and somehow it makes me a little sad to think that advice books need to be written about being empathetic. But I suppose that’s a given, and I like the way this simply explains these rings of caring.


  3. Excellent advice….


  4. The ring has relationship as it’s radius..closer the ties harder to speak..yet the one in distress will get more importance


  5. The trouble is that if too many people give contradictory advice to a confused and traumatised person, then that person becomes more confused and more consumed by feelings of hopelessness. I think this is why often it is better for friends to offer comfort and support, and leave advice up to the professionals.


  6. It can be really tough to know what to say in an awful situation, there’s no doubt about it. To this day, I remember my grandmother’s visitation. I was standing there, absolutely wracked with grief and struggling to accept the fact that this woman whom I loved with all my heart had been ravaged by lung cancer (non-smoker), suffered terribly, wasted away to a shadow of her former self, and someone came up to me in the receiving line and said, “Your grandmother looks beautiful, Lori, so natural and at peace.” It was everything I could do to keep from shrieking because the statement was so dissonant and so very far from the truth. But then I realized that the poor woman didn’t know what the hell to say and was trying to be comforting. There are many times when I’ve simply said, “I don’t know what to say….I’m so sorry….” I think just acknowledging the grief and “sharing the burden,” if only for a few seconds, can be comforting to those experiencing the pain/loss….


  7. SO true!!!


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