1. Personal Transformation

What to Say When Someone Is Having a Bad Day?

When you hear about a family member or a friend having a rough day, it’s hard to know what you can do to brighten up their mood, let alone what to say.

Here’s how you can quickly turn their day around.

Table of Contents

Nate Battle

Nate Battle

Coach | Speaker |
Author, Battle Endurance – How You Can Be Someone Who Never Quits and Gives Everything You Have To Give

First and foremost, remember these key points in life:

  • Each day we get 86,400 seconds to “spend,” don’t waste 10,000 of them dwelling on what doesn’t matter.
  • Have you had other bad days? Did any of them kill you? Right, just like before, you will survive this day, things will improve, your life will go, and this will become a distant memory.
  • Process this moment, circumstance, or pain, then let it pass. Learn not to dwell in a temporary place.
  • Life can bring us to some highly uncomfortable places, know that these tend to bring excellent opportunities for growth.
  • Follow the five-second rule: if it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five seconds on it
  • Today will become like yesterday, and yesterday ended last night. Tomorrow will bring a new opportunity to start fresh and try again.
  • Don’t allow anyone or anything to occupy your mind-space, rent-free. If it does not serve you, let it go.
  • Remember that life, like this day, does not last forever.
  • In life, no one gets out alive. We all have an expiration date; we just don’t know when it is.
  • If someone hurt you, don’t take it personally. Remember that most of the time, people are not against you; they are for themselves.
  • As long as you have breath in your body, you win. Don’t quit; the opportunity still exists for things to get and be better.
  • You’re still here. You win by not quitting.
  • Be your own Superhero!

Free yourself from expectation prison

Be leery of expectation prison. Too often, we create expectations on things based on flawed thinking and our limited perspective. This can set us up for failure.

Learn to let go quickly when things don’t turnout or unfold as we expected them.

There is no rule of law that says things are supposed to turn out as we expect them. Getting upset will not help that matter. Resisting will not change things and usually only makes matters worse.

Instead, learn to embrace whatever happens as if you choose for it to happen. Learn to let yourself out of expectation prison. To live free, in the present moment, one moment at a time. To go with the flow as if on an adventure.

Avoid the temptation to re-live the past or pre-live the future – this is the trap that snares you.

Seek to see the good and make the most out of every situation rather than focus on the negative. The worst you can get out of any experience in a lesson to be learned that you can apply to your life, to make things better.

Related: How to Let Go of Expectations & Why It’s Important

Secondly, as a powerful tool to use proactively in the pursuit of a fulfilling and meaningful impact with your life, when facing paralyzing, overwhelming and crippling adversity and pain, I use the following approach for wringing the good out of challenges and living life to the fullest! It’s called: Let go, Live now and Win!

This approach helps put adverse events into perspective. At best, they are temporal. It teaches us to discard negative thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that don’t serve us and begin anew, at any moment we choose. Challenges help you grow, builds character, be more grateful, and live an authentic life.

Let go

You need to start by letting go of the things you do with no control. Be it the past, people or circumstances you cannot change. The time and effort you spend worrying over or being distracted the past, or things you can do absolutely nothing about, causes undue stress, a loss of energy and focus.

Live Now

By that, I mean you need to live in the present moment. Yesterday, ended last night. The combined wealth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos cannot buy 5 seconds of yesterday.

The future has not happened yet. When it occurs, it happens in the present moment. So in reality, all you ever have in now, this very moment. You would be wise to make the most of it.

You need to stop trying to pre-live (what may or may not happen in the future) or relive (what happened in the past) and live now!

Win

You should celebrate every win along the way. The big ones as well as the small ones. By acknowledging your victories, you encourage yourself and build momentum toward achieving your goals. By realizing your vision, you become the best version of yourself!

You can always live your spirit when you begin to list out the things you are thankful and grateful for by merely shifting your perspective to one of gratitude. This approach focuses on mental wellness and is more of a mental ‘work-out’ than a physical one.

In my book, I’ve shared many stories and approaches on how to live a full, more peaceful life, even while dealing with challenges. A book which motivational speaker Les Brown calls “instructive, informative, and inspiring … a guide to live your life victoriously.”

If searching for a tool to help deal with life’s stress, my book is just that – a guide and roadmap you can leverage based on your unique experience and at your own pace. I wrote it with the idea that readers can replace the challenges I’ve included with their own and be able to see themselves working through conflict, obstacles and difficulties and limiting negative self-talk, one step, action, moment and battle at a time.

Charlene Walters, MBA, Ph.D.

Charlene Walters

Writer and Speaker | Business & Branding Mentor, Own Your Other

We all have bad days from time to time. There is not a person who is immune to them. When someone we know is having a bad day, we should, first and foremost, just listen to them. Often, they just want to vent and be heard. After they have explained about their day, we can do the following things to try to help:

Acknowledge that we’ve heard them and confirm that, yes, they’ve had a horrible day

In this type of situation, people usually want a bit of sympathy, or at least, validation of their unpleasant experience.

Remind them that it will get better

Bad days are few and far between in the big scheme of things. Share a story of a similarly bad day that you’ve experienced and how it turned out for the best in the end.

Point out the positive in the situation, or in their life

It’s easy to wallow in the negative, but reminding them of the positive can help change their mindset and their focus. There is always a silver lining and something good happening in their lives.

Related: What are the Benefits of Positive Thinking?

Try to take their mind off of it by suggesting a diversion

A diversion can be used to lighten their mood or just changing the conversation to a more positive topic. Tell a joke, suggest a fun outing or share an interesting tidbit.

Ask them what you can do to help

Remind them that there are plenty of people that care about them in their life including you. Find out if you can assist in making it better. Either way, you will lift them up by showing that you care and providing comfort on their bad day.

Becky Stuempfig, MA, LMFT

Becky Stuempfig

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist | Owner, Encinitas Therapy

Let them know they are not alone

If the individual is a teenager or young adult, this is particularly important given the rising suicide rates in that population. The knowledge that even one person cares about you can make all the difference.

Sometimes a simple statement such as “I’ve had days like that too” can help normalize a bad day and decrease feelings of isolation.

Offer them an opportunity to confide in you

Saying something to the effect of, “I’m here for you if you would like to chat” allows them to maintain control and choose to open up when they feel safe doing so. I recommend following up a day or two later to inquire about their well-being.

If the individual confides in you, it is critical that they do not feel judged

Simply listening and showing compassion for their situation can be extremely therapeutic. Unless someone asks for help finding a solution, it is usually wise to not try to solve their problem.

Most people simply want to feel heard and supported by their social network. Empowering them to find their own solutions is more beneficial than offering your own solutions.

Questions such as “How are you thinking of handling this?” can support them in thinking through their next steps and increase feelings of control over their lives.

Say it with a gesture

Leaving someone a thoughtful card or flowers can go a long way in improving their day. It does not need to be anything elaborate, simply a note letting them know that you care about them and hope their day improves.

This lets them know they are not alone and conveys hope for tomorrow; two powerful messages for improving mental health.

Offer to go for a walk with them

Getting outside and breathing in the fresh air can do wonders for our mental health. One of the most efficient and immediate mental health interventions for improving mood is walking and talking. Even just twenty to thirty minutes outside with a friend can lift the fog of a bad day.

Allen Klein

Allen Klein

World’s only Jollytologist® | Speaker | TED Presenter | Author, The Healing Power of Humor

Initially, just listen and don’t say anything

When someone is having a bad day, they often need to vent…to tell their story. Interrupting them with your advice may not be appropriate.

Once you’ve heard about why they are having a bad day, you can determine how serious their situation is. Are they upset because they didn’t get the raise they wanted, or, because their pet died? Each might get a different response from you.

If you are physically with them, in the first case you might want to treat them to lunch or a movie. In the latter case, you might want to embrace and comfort them in their loss by acknowledging how wonderful their pet was and to encourage them to talk about all the good times they had together.

And if you are not physically with them, a hand-written card or letter (not an email), or a phone call is in order just to let them know you are there for them.

Julieanne O’Connor

Julieanne O'Connor

Author | Actress | TEDx Speaker | Certified Corporate Trainer | Career Coach, Spelling It Out

When someone is having a bad day, the best thing to do is ask questions

People operate with sometimes very different values. Some of us are all about attention and expression, while others are focused on privacy and predictability. Some people may turn to learning and self-mastery when they are having a bad day, while still others may actually need community with or without divulging what’s happening in their lives.

That’s not to say that people don’t want to hear you say something simple, such as, “Is there anything I can do for you today?” or “Can I get you something?” But the moment someone says something like, “Cheer up!” or “Look on the bright side,” you might be surprised at how it strikes an unexpected nerve based on the fact that the person feels as though someone can’t relate to what they are experiencing.

Since you just never know what’s happening with someone who is having a bad day, I suggest simple gestures of either a question or an offering as a first resort.

If in fact, you know someone well, and/or you know the actual issue causing a person’s bad day, my hope is that you might be able to draw on intuition to say just the right thing to help make it better.

Candace Yaeger, MBA, MA

Candace Yaeger

Executive Coach and Human Potential Expert

Bad days happen. And that’s okay! When someone else is having a bad day, whether a coworker, significant other, or friend, it is natural for us to want to help. However, good-intentioned attempts could make things worse. If we aren’t careful, we could end up making them feel guilty for their feelings or overwhelmed.

Avoid sharing your stuff

It is human nature to try to relate. We do this by sharing our own similar situations or mood. However, this could not only overwhelm the other person but it could also make them feel like you are downplaying their situation. When someone shares about their bad day, refrain from telling them what has gone wrong for you today.

Try This: Remind them that they are not alone. Share that your door is open if they need to talk things out or vent.

Related: How to Stop Yourself from Talking Too Much

Don’t play ‘hero’

Especially for those of us who are problem solvers, we want to jump in and save the day by offering solutions. Yet, when someone is having a bad day, offering solutions can add to the overwhelm by making them feel like they now have more things to do.

Try this: Take the time to listen to them. When you feel the urge to offer a solution, instead shift to asking about their feelings.

Don’t make assumptions

Weare all different- and so are our bad days and how we handle them. Don’t assume that what cheers you up will work for the other person. When I’m having a bad day, my favorite smoothie or a walk with my dogs usually does the trick. That’s not a one-size-fits-all solution!

Try this: Ask the other person what you can do to cheer them up. Do they want to vent? Do they want you to send them funny gifs?

Virginia Pillars

Virginia Pillars

Speaker | Mental Health Volunteer | 
Author, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness

When someone is having a bad day, it’s important to acknowledge the feeling they are having

First, mention that they don’t seem like themself. Then, listen. And listen some more as you pay attention to what they tell you. It’s helpful to repeat what they said so they know you heard what they said. This validates them and they know you really heard them.

Acknowledge their feelings by saying, “I’m sorry things feel hard right now,” or “That must feel scary or whatever emotion they shared.”

Encourage them to talk about it with someone they trust

If you have established trust with them, it may help them if you affirm you want to help them. “I’m here for you,” or “I’ll listen if you want to talk,” gives them permission to name the reason they are having a bad day. The person may not want advice, so don’t offer it unless they ask for it. Questions can help them sort things out as they talk. Some examples are:

  • “Has this happened to you in the past?”
  • “Did anything help you handle it then?”
  • “Is there something I can do to help you?”

If each answer is negative, follow up with, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m here to listen if you want to talk about it.” Sometimes, people just need someone to care about them and listen without trying to fix their emotions.

Jeremy Roadruck

Jeremy Roadruck

Best-selling author | Parenting Expert | Certified in NeuroLinguistic Programming and Hypnotherapy |
Author, Your Best Child Ever

If friends are in trouble, don’t annoy them by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.

We all have had bad days. And, when we’re feeling bad, we often run a series of physical, mental, and emotional patterns and talk to ourselves
in a particular way. Same for our friends, too.

One of the best things you can do is help your friend to shift the patterns

It’s like baking a cake with all salt, no sugar. If we can interrupt their patterns for having a bad day – they can start to have an okay day or a
good day!

Get in rapport

Start to talk about the same speed as your friend, breathe about the same speed, stand about the same way. After about thirty seconds to a minute, start to shift your body – stand a bit taller, start to talk a bit faster, etc.

Start to shift the focus of the conversation

Let your friend vent for a bit, and then start to ask questions that could shift the meaning of whatever they are saying. For example:

Them: “I’m just having the worst day ever. First, I woke up late, and then my coffee maker died. I got stuck in traffic, and then I dropped my
report in the rain! I hate my life!”

You: “OMGoodness, that is just the worst. I hate when it feels like my life is just spiraling out of my control. But then I remember, isn’t it
great that I can focus on what I want? Have you ever noticed how quickly and easily it’s possible to shift into a positive emotion? Especially,
when you… have you ever… what’s your favorite song?”

Offer encouragement

When you notice your friend standing a little taller, breathing a little easier, place your hand on a shoulder or forearm and offer some encouragement. Hold eye contact for a moment, help your friend to feel heard, and acknowledged.

Create something humorous around this experience to help anchor in these happier moments

My wife and I once watched a video clip about a man and a woman on a couch, and the woman is upset about something. She also happens to have a nail in the middle of her forehead. My wife and I both use “It’s not about the nail” when the other is frustrated and just wants validation and encouragement.

Randi Levin

Randi Levin

Transitional Life Strategist, Randi Levin Coaching

A bad day does not define itself as a bad life

Everyone has peaks and valleys within the scope of their week. No matter how bad the day, challenge yourself to pull out the wins. Then reflect on them for momentum into a better moment.

Ask yourself the following: What was okay in your bad day? What did you learn? Does this support you in knowing more about what you don’t want so you can go after what you do want?

Was your bad day pre-scripted?

In other words, did you assume that something would not work out and then that assumption came true? Next time you find yourself having negative thoughts about the success of something reverse engineer the outcome. Instead of anticipating the worst, envision the best.

How does that make you feel? What happens next if this works out? To protect ourselves from getting hurt we often assume or anticipate the fail instead of the win. By reversing this to see the success first, we change perspectives on the situation and the day as a whole.

Sometimes you just need to lean into that bad day

Use it as a pause. Take time to reflect and go inward. Do something nice for yourself. Let it run its a course like a 24-hour flu bug! Start the next day from a “feeling better” perspective!

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics

When someone is having a bad day, one of your first responses should be a reminder to yourself that some people are just having a bad day. It sounds obvious, but don’t let their negative energy seep into your day. Make sure that you’re able to separate yourself from their issues before giving any well-meaning advice.

You can start by letting them know that you’re there for them

Most of the time when people are having a one-off bad day, rather than an ongoing issue, it can help just to have someone to vent to and validate your frustrations. They’re not looking for solutions (unless they specifically ask for them) which means that now is the time to keep your opinions to yourself and just ask if there’s something you can do to make their day a little better.

The bottom line is that it’s less about what you say and more about how you listen.

Adam Cole

Adam Cole

Jazz Musician | Writer

The temptation is to try and fix it. Maybe you don’t want to see someone you love in pain. Maybe you always want to fix things for people and you want to get this one “off your plate” so it’s not an issue anymore.

Understand why you want to fix it then don’t try to fix it — just listen

Listen and acknowledge what you’re hearing, by nodding, by repeating what you’re hearing to be sure you’re understanding, and by asking clarifying questions. Many times, being heard by someone feels a lot better than being “fixed.” If you’re listening carefully, then when they ask for actual help, you’ll hear them and you can take action.

Dr. Nikola Djordjevic

Nikola Djordjevic

Family Doctor, Med Alert Help

When somebody is having a bad day, the best strategy is to openly ask if a person wants to talk about it

Usually, there is no need to offer a miraculous solution, but simply to listen to people. Expressing encouragement is always good, such as “it’s going to get better’’ or ‘’this is just one bad day/period’’.

However, do not ever try to deny one’s feelings and make them feel bad for having a tough time. Yes, encouragement is good, but just being there to support a person emotionally without trying to change his or her mood can mean a lot more than saying cheesy, rehearsed sentences.

Drea Burbank

Drea Burbank

MD-Technologist and Consultant | Founder, Empulse

Doctors can be really good at this because we often have to help patients who are depressed, under extreme strain from illness, or just got truly devastating news.

We know from the science of depression, that even 15 minutes of cognitive-behavioral-therapy delivered by a doctor in the clinic can prevent or treat depression.

When I am working with someone who is having a bad day, I always validate the feeling first

“I can see you’re upset, and that’s a totally legitimate response.”

Then I reflect something they said back to them in a more positive light, usually as a hero’s journey.

“I’m going to say that it is possible that you’re just doing something really difficult, and feeling bad about it is okay, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a way through it.”

Danny Ray

Danny Ray

Founder, Pinnacle Quote Life Insurance Specialists

Support and being uplifting is important

Above all, being in sales for 26 years you come across many walks of life that have days filled with rejection and adversity. Overall, sometimes someone just needs to be told it’s going to be ok. Or, this to shall pass.

In fact, there is always someone that is going through worse and what is going on now, TODAY, does not last forever. So, give them a hug, and tell them tomorrow is a new day!

Bracha Goetz

Bracha Goetz

Author, Searching for God in the Garbage

It’s not necessary to say anything at all

When people are having bad days, they want someone to listen to them and empathize with what they are experiencing. If you can genuinely share in the pain that another is feeling, that very moment, the burden they are carrying becomes lighter.

Randi Braun

Randi Braun

Executive Coach & Consultant | Founder, Something Major

We all have bad days from time to time, but when we’re having a bad day at work, it can feel extra frustrating or emotionally charged.

One of the best things a trusted colleague or manager can do is pull that person aside and ask them: “Is there anything I can do to today to help lighten your load here at the office or to get you out of here a little earlier?”

If you know there is something specific you can offer (i.e. can I help you finish that slide deck?) ask them directly and explicitly.

The more specific you can be, the stronger your message that you’re here to help, not just asking to be nice.

Shannon Serpette

Shannon Serpette

Chief Editor, Mom Loves Best

The thing that has always helped me most when I’ve had a bad day is someone simply saying “What can I do to help?”

Often, people who are having a bad day don’t actively need anything — they just want to feel as if someone has their back. Just the feeling that someone cares enough to ask what you need can help make your day better immediately.