Sadness is the hot topic on one of tonight's "Girl Code" episodes, which begin airing at 10/9c on MTV. Of course, we can't talk about sadness without mentioning the completely natural and normal thing that everyone is born doing: crying their eyes out.
Once you hit middle school, crying in public becomes sort of taboo. Nobody wants to be labeled a crybaby. Nobody, especially guys, wants to be seen as vulnerable or weak. Whether you're crying over a breakup, "The Fault In Our Stars", a bad grade -- or you don't even know why you're crying at all in the first place -- sobbing in the middle of a hallway or sidewalk is the worst.
If you see someone tearing up, don't say these things to them. We know you mean well, but you might just be making things worse.
"Are you OK?"
How does someone in tears most accurately respond to this question? If they say “yes,” you’re not going to believe them because, duh, they’re in TEARS. But they might feel weird being honest and saying “no,” because then they’d be forcing you to stop whatever you’re doing in order to comfort them. A better question would be, "Is there anything I can do to help?" This way, you're letting the person know you're available to lend a hand -- and they'll be more open to asking for help if that's what they need.
"I know exactly how you feel"...then talk about yourself
Don't take this as an opportunity to talk about your slightly similar but not-at-all-the-same experience. In that moment, the person crying could care less about what you're going or have gone through -- because they're too busy focusing on the crappy situation they're currently experiencing.
9 times out of the 10, the person will respond with something along the lines of "Oh, it's nothing, don't worry" when obviously something's up. But if you're a complete stranger to this person, they're not going to fill you in on their entire life story just like that. Unless you're a family member or a BFF, steer clear of this question.
It’s not that simple. People can't always control when and where they spontaneously burst into tears. Telling someone to stop crying isn't going to make them stop any faster. In some situations, the person won't feel better until they get all the tears out. The goal of crying isn't to stop crying as quickly as possible. Crying can be cathartic and might even make someone feel the teeniest better about whatever they're upset about.
"Why are you crying over this? It’s no big deal."
We’ve all been in situations, girls and guys included, where all the stresses of the world suddenly build up and lead to an unexpected breakdown. It probably wasn't one small thing that set off the stream of tears -- it was most likely an accumulation of lots of little things over a period of time. Don’t judge someone for tearing up, even if you think what they’re crying over is meaningless. You probably don’t know the full story.
"It could be worse."
Thank you, captain obvious. Remember when you were little and your parents told you to eat your veggies because there were starving kids in other countries? Remember how that was completely ineffective at motivating you to eat yucky green stuff? Yeah, telling someone that things could be worse won't make them feel any better in the moment.
"Everything's gonna be fine."
The problem with crying is that everything feels completely overwhelming and uncontrollable in the moment. It's hard to understand that whatever stinks right now won't feel as all-consuming a day, a week, a year or 10 years from now. It's going to take some time before they gain perspective on the situation.