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Choosing the Right Words When a Friend Has Anxiety

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No-one has the ability to the say the right thing at the right time all the time, but we all have the power to try. We all have the power to learn about how one word can affect anxiety within a second, and how we can all be more susceptible to change.

For example, the rational (see there I could have used the word “normal” but I chose not to in its ability to isolate mental health conditions as abnormal) mind is reacting to the text “sorry I can’t do anything tonight anymore, will speak to you soon to rearrange! X” – what does the rational, positive thinking, free of anxiety mind respond to this? It thinks and probably states “no worries, I know you’re busy! Yeah would love to, will catch up with you soon X” – thought and scenario dead and gone.

Now… You don’t have a rational mind at the moment. Every thought is filled with paranoia and negative associations. So, what does this mind think? I’ll tell you….

“Why haven’t they said what they’re doing and how they’re busy?”

“It’s probably because they don’t like me and are meeting someone to discuss this with.”

“I bet they never text to rearrange because they don’t want to see me anyway.”

“I bet they’re doing a private plan with our other friends.”

“I bet they’re just staying in and that’s how much they couldn’t bear the thought of doing something with me.”

“Why are they canceling when they know I’m having a tough time at the moment?”

“That obviously means they don’t care.”

I literally could go on for pages and pages and days and days with an endless list of irrational and almost definite failed facts.

What I’m saying is: If you know someone has this mindset, think about the way you send that text. We all get busy, right? Make too many plans? Just want to go to bed? Get sick? Have to work late? Sometimes respond to a question so quickly we look like we’re being rude? Say something so dismissive, but not because we don’t care, just because it came out that way? Say the completely wrong thing and regret it instantly? Yep… well, I’m not saying you have to make this mad, huge effort to go round changing the way you speak, but maybe have a little think.

Maybe for a minute, try it. And if they’re someone you’re close to – yes, you may feel like everything you say is wrong, but trust me, the person you’re speaking to has already said something wrong in their head or out loud. They’ve responded badly to the words you used and used words to try and probe a reaction. Don’t worry, we know it’s silly, but you know what words can do? Push people so far away they can’t hurt you anymore, so far you don’t need to trust them, so far what they say won’t affect you anymore. Trust me, anxiety-prone people use words wrong all the bloody time! So we’ve all got changes to make and we’ve all got a snap of anxiety within us. Because anxiety is so drawn to paranoia, one word can change the whole game.

What do the words “don’t worry” mean to you? To me, they mean “omg I’ve done something really wrong, they’re really pissed off with me, I need to apologize again, they’re just saying that for an easy life because they can’t be bothered to talk to me.” So yeah, notice someone doesn’t like a frequent term you use? By all means, use it, I’m not asking you to change, but just think. One word could make or break someone’s day. And that’s not your fault, but it’s not theirs either.

Be kind to each other. It’ll make someone’s day. And you’re having a shitty day? Keep on being kind. I promise it will help.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Thinkstock photo via shironosov

Originally published: August 24, 2017
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