How NOT to help someone feeling low

What are the things that people hate most when someone supposedly tries to help when they feel down?


Here’s what our recent research showed:


  1. Lecture me self-righteously.
  2. Tell me to get over it or snap out of it.
  3. Get angry or affronted if I say I’m not up for socializing.
  4. Ignore me or change the subject when I talk about how I feel.
  5. Ignore me and treat me as if I was invisible.
  6. Tell me to cheer up.
  7. Rush me to do things and make decisions.
  8. Tell me there are plenty of people worse off than me.
  9. Make sad faces at me.
  10. Ask me why I’m low when I’ve so much to be grateful for.

Just as we found with our ‘How to Help’ study, some people do actually WANT others to do some of the things that others can’t abide, so here’s a list of the most polarised actions, with the ones with the biggest love-hate discrepancies at the top.


  1. Hug me without asking if that’s OK with me.
  2. Overwhelm me with more love and concern than I can handle.
  3. Be over-keen to discuss my problems in great detail.
  4. Tell me “everyone feels low sometimes”.
  5. Pressure me to keep going, and tell me I shouldn’t let it get to me.
  6. Pressurize me to do things, such as socializing, that I don’t feel like doing.
  7. Tell me that you know what will help me.
  8. Tell me to cheer up.
  9. Ask me why I’m low when I’ve so much to be grateful for.
  10. Tell me there are plenty of people worse off than me.

As ever, giant and heart-felt thanks to the more than 200 wonderful readers who took the time to complete our questionnaire anonymously. We have some data geniuses looking at the findings even as we speak, so watch this space for developments.

They’re fascinating results already, to be sure.

One thought on “How NOT to help someone feeling low

  1. Fascinating lists showing no one thing fits everyone.

    Can also recommend the book ‘Reasons to stay alive’ by Matt Haig and reflecting on his lists including ‘Reasons to stay alive’, while gripped with depression; ‘How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety’- and his last chapter ‘How to live(forty pieces of advice I feel to be helpful, but which I don’t always follow)’.

    But there is one page in the book which is entitled ‘Self Help’ which I think is really beautiful and actually poetic which I thought worth sharing.

    How to stop time: kiss.
    How to travel in time: read.
    How to escape time: music.
    How to feel time: write.
    How to release time: breathe.

    From ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig – Published by Canongate 2015

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