What to Say (and NOT Say) to a Friend Who Lost Their Job

It’s easy to say the wrong thing in touchy situations, like a close friend’s job loss. Be prepared with these understanding and empathetic responses.

A few years ago my mother lost her job at a company she’d been with for over twenty years. As her children, we saw this as a beautiful opportunity for her to take a break, get clear on what she wants for her next phase of life and start something new.

Little did I know that our optimistic perspective didn’t support how she was truly feeling in the moment. If I could go back, I’d employ a completely different approach. Instead of making the same mistakes I did, try the following to support a friend or family member who has lost their job.

What NOT to Say to a Friend Who Lost Their Job

First, let’s get what not to say out of the way. Go ahead and click “Cancel. Clear. Delete” on these phrases. These are not at all helpful, especially in the beginning, when the job loss is still fresh.

  • “That’s terrible!”
  • “You’ll find a new job soon.”
  • “Lucky! Enjoy the time off tomorrow.”
  • “My job sucks. You’re so lucky you got off!”
  • “Finally! The vacation you always dreamed of.”
  • “There’s not a lot of security in that market anyway. Surely you’re not surprised.”
  • “Have you found anything yet?”

Overall, you’ll want to avoid any unsolicited advice. Wait until your friend asks you for advice. Then, and only then, can you give them advice.

Also, don’t squash or attempt to eliminate their bad feelings by cheering them up immediately or looking at the bright side. That’s an unhealthy approach to handling someone else’s feelings. It’s best to allow them to be in their feelings, rather than denying them.

woman comforting her friend who lost her job

What to Say to Your Friend

“I’m so sorry to hear the news. I know how much you loved your job. How are you feeling?”

This statement communicates understanding and empathy, and it creates space for them to share where they are at in the present moment. That’s super important for them to process all their feelings. A good quality friend will hold space for the other as they deal with what’s going on.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Not everyone will want to talk about job loss. It may be too difficult, which makes this an important question to ask at different points along the job loss journey, especially if they say no in the beginning. Maybe they’ll never want to talk about it, and that’s okay! At a minimum, your interest lets them know you care.

Asking this question encourages them to break out of isolation and spend time with others. During unemployment, people may spend a lot of time alone. This isn’t the greatest thing when they’re going through a roller coaster of feelings. Suggest doing something fun together, like taking a walk, enjoying tea at your house together or treating them to lunch.

“I understand how scared, frustrated, sad, or angry you feel. That has to be difficult.”

If you see that your friend is experiencing a specific emotion, then validate that emotion. It will feel good to them to know that you see and acknowledge their emotions. It creates a feeling of being held and comforted.

“What do you need from me?”

This clearly communicates that you are available to help. This allows your friend to let you know where they need the most support. If they’re brave enough, they’ll take you up on the offer. Or maybe they are doing better than expected. Nonetheless, knowing they have your support, if needed, makes a world of difference.

“I have faith in you.”

In the face of challenges, it’s important to know that other people believe in you. It can be easy for people who’ve lost jobs to get down on themselves and think of themselves as failures.

Build up their confidence by acknowledging their resilience. Take the time to acknowledge their strengths. They need to know that they’ve got what it takes to pick up the pieces and move forward. A big vote of confidence from a close friend can be just what the doctor ordered.

Your Story Matters

Have you lost a job or been through a similarly difficult time? Your story could make a big difference in how your friend copes with these troubling times. More than anything, people want to hear that things will get better. If you’re standing on the other side of a hard transition, then share how you got there.

Your friend will want to know how you dealt with the stress, what tools you used, who you spoke with, what you did to cope financially, how you persevered, and any other motivational tips you may have. They may also want to know that it was hard for you and all the feelings you had in the process. Misery loves company, as they say. While no one needs to wallow in their feelings, it’s necessary and feels good to know that others understand how you feel and have been where you’ve been.

Related at Care2

Image via Getty Images

45 comments

Anna R
Anna R7 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin10 days ago

it's scary how often we forget to ask others how they're feeling

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Ann B
Ann B11 days ago

good advise..now if they would just stop hiring family members and keep the older hard workers that actually do their work--WITHOUT a phone glued to their ear

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson18 days ago

Thank you.

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Sue Magee
Sue Magee20 days ago

Interesting - thank you

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Angela K
Angela K21 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek22 days ago

Tyfs

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek22 days ago

Tyfs

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JoAnn P
JoAnn Paris22 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD22 days ago

tyfs

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