Stop Saying ‘If It Makes You Feel Better’ (3 Reasons It Doesn’t)

A lot of people are in the habit of saying ‘If it makes you feel better…’. Followed by something worse. The intent is to imply the other person should be grateful because their situation isn’t the worst it could possibly be. While there’s a well-intentioned idea in there, in practice it doesn’t work at all.

Here’s an example. One person might say “I just lost my job”. The response might be “If it makes you feel better millions of other people just lost their job too.”

Here are a couple reasons why you should stop staying, ‘if it makes you feel better’

It doesn’t acknowledge their experience

Instead of being with the person in a time of need, ‘if it makes you feel better’ completely skips their experience. If the intent is focusing on gratitude, we first need to acknowledge their current feelings and experience. Validation will reduce emotional intensity and eventually create space for further conversation and exploration of solutions, one of which might be gratitude.

It focuses on additional negative events

While the implication may be toward gratitude, the immediate information is more negative. Why would other people having a bad time make me feel better? It also sucks for them. In the worst case, it can make me feel worse being reminded that other people are experiencing negativity, or that bad events are happening to other people.

It’s your external idea of what they should be grateful for

While gratitude is implied, saying ‘if it makes you feel better’ imposes your external idea of gratitude onto them. Typically, this is pretty ineffective. Gratitude needs to be felt internally and focused on concepts the person cares about. It’s far more effective to follow a line like “I can tell you’re frustrated, what are you grateful for right now?” Leaving the conversation open ended allows the person to focus on events which actually resonate and produce the feeling of gratitude instead of trying to create it for them, which typically doesn’t work.

Overall, there’s just better options than saying ‘if it makes you feel better’. The intent might be good, but it doesn’t come across especially well, nor does it have the intended effect. Steer clear.

Exercises & Reflection Questions
1. How often do you use the phrase ‘if it makes you feel better’?
2. How can you better validate others’ experiences?
3. What other methods might you employ to help others feel grateful in trying times?

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