When we see a coworker at their limit, we want to help. But even when our intentions are good, we can make things worse. This is a time when it pays to be careful with your words and know what not to say. Avoid talking about yourself and past situations when you dealt with stress. When someone is at their wit’s end, they don’t want to hear about your trials; they’re too focused on their own. Be careful not to minimize their situation. Don’t say things like: “Don’t worry about it,” “That’s nothing,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “Get over it.” Instead, say, “You can handle this,” and offer an example of a time they were able to bounce back from a tough situation. Then ask them, “What would help?” If the reply is “nothing” or “I don’t know,” sit quietly for 15 seconds (the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” in your head.) This quiet time could help them come up with their own solutions. The goal isn’t to cure someone’s stress, but to help them lessen it in the moment.

Credit: HBR