The pandemic has led to mass job loss across the UK – and friends and family don’t always know how to react.
Sometimes, well-intentioned phrases such as “everything happens for a reason” or “the best is yet to come” can actually have a negative effect. Psychologists term this blinking optimism in the face of adversity “toxic positivity”.
The problem with toxic positivity, is that it doesn’t acknowledge the pain a person is going through, or give them permission to open up if they’re struggling.
To help loved ones get it right, we asked people on Twitter to tell us the things you should never say to someone facing job loss. We were inundated with responses, both from people facing job loss at the moment and people who’ve been there in the past.
Some people did say redundancy led them to starting their own business or finding a better job. But when you’re in the dark days of unemployment panic, hearing those success stories isn’t always helpful – especially when you’re job hunting in a pandemic, something your well-intentioned friend/auntie/former boss has probably never experienced.
Here are the phrases that need to be dismissed with immediate effect, suggested by readers:
1. “As one door closes, another one opens.” – Andrea Gough, Liverpool
2. “You don’t know it yet, but it’ll be the best thing that ever happened to you.” – Sara Spary, London
3. “Anything starting with ‘at least...’. ‘At least you are healthy’, ‘at least you can apply for other things’, ‘at least you are not the only one in this position.’” –Rachel Allan, Glasgow
4. “Don’t worry, in a few months you’ll look back and laugh.” – Abigail Meadow, Manchester
5. “Have you been applying for jobs?” – Mary Walker, Barnsley
6. “You’ll look back on this and see it as an opportunity.” – Luce Brett, London
7. “Well, you did say you were a bit fed up.” – Flic Everett, Scotland
8. ”Not a great time to be looking for a new job.” – Jodie Schofield, Liverpool
9. “It could always be worse.” – Jeremy, Norfolk
10. “What is meant for you won’t pass you by.” – Joel Jelen, Liverpool
11. “Start your own business, it’s so easy!” – Hannah Jane Thompson, London
12. “You’ll come stronger after going through this.” – Maddie Davies, Reading
13. “You’re so lucky to have the summer [or insert a time period here] off.” – Sophia, London
14. “Well maybe it’s time to find something more stable.” Said to freelance folk of all industries at one time or another. – Kerren Garner, Brighton
15. “Don’t worry, it was a terrible job anyway.” – Gary Glover, UK
16. “Oh I’m sure you’ll find a job soon. Don’t worry.” – Apple Mandy, New York
17. “Everything happens for a reason” and “You’re so strong.” – Toni White, Exeter
18. “You just need to stay positive!” – Jen Kaarlo, London
19. “I never really thought you were up to it.” – Edward Quigley, London
20. “Ooooh, good things will come your way, it must be fate.” – Graham, Rugby
So, what should you say to help a loved one who has recently lost their job? A version of, “I’m so sorry, that’s really, really shit” is a good place to start, as is offering a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.
If you really want to be helpful, practical support such as offering to drop round dinners, run errands, proof-read applications or help with childcare while they’re busy job hunting gets extra points.