THE BLOG
18/11/2013 08:32 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

There, There I Know How You Feel

It did not come much as a surprise to me to read that phrases like "get a grip" or "pull yourself together" are among the most annoying and irritating things you can say to someone - particularly if they are going through a rough patch.

In addition, saying to someone who might be crying on your shoulder that they should "keep a stiff upper lip" or that everything will be ok with the words "there, there" are also things that should, in my view, be confined to the shredding machine of unusable phrases, if there is such a thing.

While it is indeed understandable that family or friends are often lost for words of comfort when someone pours their heart out with their most pressing or immediate concerns, using these well-worn phrases or clichés can be extremely annoying to say the least.

Recently a poll conducted among 5,000 adults also found there, there and keep a stiff upper lip certainly do not do the trick in trying to alleviate someone else's concerns. Rather, the poll found, one day we'll laugh at this and I really feel for you are expressions of empathy or concern that can be genuinely reassuring.

Of course it can be difficult to find the right tone or mood when trying to be of comfort to someone. I suppose we all want people to feel better, but getting it right and showing them that we have understood their concerns and worries while not sounding patronising or dismissive is of prime importance.

Often I have heard people complain that when they have gone to the local GP hoping to get some sympathy over a particular problem that may not necessarily be illness-related, the stern doctor has stood upright from his desk and intoned "Pull yourself together, dear boy!"

And with that, the doctor quickly shows his patient the door.

I often wish I could be a fly on the wall during such an encounter. Then I would reply: "If only I could pull myself together, I would. I wouldn't be here seeing you!"

Researchers for AXA admit that in their recent findings, one in five Brits acknowledge that they mostly don't know what to say to comfort a friend, colleague or relative when they find themselves in deep water.

And perhaps GPs have to be counted as the "one in five..."

Here then are 10 phrases to avoid:

Get a grip

Pull yourself together

There, there

Pain is just weakness leaving the body

Keep a stiff upper lip

There are plenty more fish in the sea

Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever

Worse things happen at sea

That's too bad

Chin up

I know how you feel is the most commonly used phrase in Britain to reassure others in times of need with nearly a quarter of people using it on a regular basis.

However, perhaps if people just stopped to think before they use this phrase, they might catch themselves out knowing that they actually do not know how that person feels.

Experts who carried out the study found overall, some of these phrases have a much greater impact on women than they do on men, with around 18 per cent more affected than men by what others say to them in times of need.

Over 70 per cent of women hate hearing "get a grip" compared with 62 per cent of men.

However, one in 10 men uses the phrase on a regular basis.

Women also dislike being told to pull yourself together with 73 per cent finding it annoying compared with 59 per cent of men.

So next time, when a friend or neighbour or relative comes in for that comforting cup of tea and some wise words, perhaps it would be worth thinking of what not to say.