Any well-intent individual would think sympathy is helpful in dissipating another’s pain, but often beyond our realization, the way we convey our condolences can cause more harm than good.
Communication is a very fragile construct. The way words are conceptualized and delivered is far different from how they are interpreted and received. What people often fail to realize when they convey a message is that there are innumerable, highly interlinked contextual factors that sculpt the way someone hears what we say. Objective words serve a function of formality, at most, but subjectivity sits at the heart of every message. The tone with which words are delivered, the context under which they are said, and the manner in which they are pieced together is what underlies the true severity of their impact.
As such, “It must be such a difficult time you are going through,” and “I could only imagine how tough that is,” and “I’m here for you,” don’t always cradle others’ hurt the way we wish they would. Words are limiting, especially on the grounds of sympathy. They try to encapsulate what often cannot be conveyed, and in doing so, break down walls that were already plastered with so much reparative tape to begin with.
While sympathies are important, they certainly demand a very mindful and courteous consideration of many factors before they can be constructed effectively. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words, and a silent, open ear, coupled with a genuine hug or gentle pat on the shoulder, can speak a thousand sympathies that words would never be able to enunciate.