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It’s been a tough few years for many of us – we’ve been beset by earthquakes, cyclones, bushfires, floods, typhoons and varying degrees of financial crises. You could say that as a community, we’ve had to endure a lot.

In times of crisis, the right words of comfort can mean a lot, yet according to research conducted by AXA, it appears few of us actually know just what to say.

In a study of 5,000 people, AXA examined the best and worst phrases to use to comfort a partner, relative or friend experiencing tough times. As you might expect, a good dose of humour and a philosophical outlook generally works better than showing some tough love.

According to the study, the phrase “One day we’ll laugh at this” was voted as the most reassuring thing you could say, while “Get a grip” was the opposite.

The study also found that men and women took different levels of comfort depending on which phrase was used, with the negative phrases affecting women 18 per cent more than men.  When faced with the phrase “Get a grip”, 74 per cent of women found it annoying, while only 62 per cent of men did.

Overall the most commonly used phrase to comfort someone in a time of need was “I know how you feel” with more than a quarter of people surveyed saying they used this phrase. Unfortunately, almost the same percentage of people found it annoying.

So next time you’re faced with someone who is in need of a kind word, think about these results and try not to use terms such as ‘Chin up’ or ‘It could be worse’,  as they will usually have the opposite effect.

Being confronted with grief and unhappiness isn’t easy and to be able to truly comfort someone you need to use words that are laced with patience, understanding and respect.  While it only seems like a little thing, it is a vital skill everyone needs to have.

Top ten most reassuring phrases


% reassured Top ten most annoying phrases % annoyed
1 One day we’ll laugh at this 49% 1 Get a grip 68%
2 I really feel for you 46% 2 Pull yourself together 66%
3 When one door closes, another door opens 38% 3 There, there 64%
4 I know how you feel 35% 4 Pain is just weakness leaving the body 59%
5 We live and learn 35% 5 Keep a stiff upper lip 54%
6 Every cloud has a silver lining 33% 6 Plenty more fish in the sea 51%
7 What’s meant to be will be 32% 7 Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever 48%
8 Time heals all wounds 32% 8 Worse things happen at sea 48%
9 What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger 32% 9 That’s too bad 46%
10 Always look on the bright side of life 32% 10 Chin up 43%


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