1. "Get over it."
This line (and its cousins, "Pull yourself together" and "Buck up") may feel like necessary tough love, but recovering from trauma, whether it's romantic, physical or even career-related, is a deeply personal experience. Some people bounce right back; others require time to process and heal. If the person you happen to be advising also has an underlying condition like depression—which can be as devastating as it is invisible—such flip advice will only make a tough time worse. Instead of dispensing this useless phrase, try listening more deeply when that person talks about the thing he or she is trying to get over.

2. "People change."
Uh, no. I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but that guy or girl who's been dancing around the maypole of commitment or fueling your insecurity for eight years isn't going to suddenly walk through a magic wardrobe and come out a different person. In general, people wave all their flags from the get-go, and they're easy for us to see, if only we are willing to look.

3. "Everything happens for a reason."
Sure, some things, even some hard things, may happen for a reason; other things may happen for a reason that only becomes clear years (or decades) later. But sometimes, there is no possible reason that we mortals can discern, and no person going through something that awful wants to hear this phrase. The implication that there is some invisible logic behind her suffering means what—that it should have happened? That it's okay that it happened? If there is a reason, let her find it on her own, at her own pace.

4. "Forgive and forget."
I'm all for compassion, and people make mistakes, but living by this motto can compromise your integrity, not to mention your sanity. You can forgive a friend's insensitivity, but that doesn't mean you should forget it. Recalling her clueless comments might prompt you to turn elsewhere for support when you're feeling vulnerable. As for repeat offenders, forgiveness includes not only giving up the hope that the past can be any different (Oprah's favorite definition of it) but also giving yourself permission to call it quits with a hurtful or vindictive relationship.

5. "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince."
No, you don't. Stop kissing frogs and do something productive, like reading a book or going to Greece or learning Mandarin. You can't control when you meet your Prince or Princess Charming, but you can control the quality of your life in the meantime. Do that.

6. "Blood is thicker than water."
This may ring true for some people, but most of us don't live in a Game of Thrones episode. Family relationships are complicated, intense and fraught. You should distance yourself from toxic or abusive relatives, or at least maintain strong boundaries to preserve your sanity. Instead of banging your head against the wall with your progenitors, siblings or crazy cousins, keep your friends extra close and turn to them when the going gets tough—we call each other chosen family for a reason.

Amy Brill is the author of The Movement of Stars.


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