6 Things To Avoid Telling A Lonely Loved One & What To Do Instead

We've all had moments of feeling isolated or alone, but when those feelings persist, things can feel a little too heavy. The pandemic introduced us to solitude like nothing else had, and many people are still working through the feelings of loneliness that can come from our day-to-day lives. According to a 2022 survey conducted by Statista, 33% of all adults worldwide have feelings of loneliness. When we feel like we are alone, it can be incredibly difficult to pull out of the sadness, and that feeling can be terrifying. 


When we see our friends or loved ones suffering from these feelings, we have the tendency to want to fix it and make them go away. Our love for them can come across as overwhelming pressure even though our intentions are to make them happy. If you have a loved one who is hurting from loneliness, there are at least six things you should avoid saying to them during their time of struggle. 

'But you've got lots of friends.'

Although it may seem like a kind thing to say, be sure to never dismiss your friend or loved one's feelings by explaining how many friends they have. It is possible to be lonely surrounded by many people. In fact, feeling lonely while being surrounded by people is a symptom of depression and social anxiety (via Mental Health America). You can support your friend better if you validate how your friend is feeling. Ask them questions to assess whether or not more support is needed and what they may need from you.


If your friend reaches out to you about their feelings of loneliness, be patient, be present, and be a supportive listener for them. Rather than telling them things you think will help them, physically being there for them matters the most. Loneliness is scary, but by showing up for your friend when they reach out to you, you're proving they have a trusted friend and confidante.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

'You'll feel better if you meet that special someone.'

When supporting your friend or loved one who has reached out about their lonely feelings, it's important that you don't assume they are lonely because they are single. Feelings of loneliness can strike anyone no matter their relationship status. Telling them to put their mental distress relief on finding a suitable mate isn't fair to anyone in the relationship. In fact, it's actually healthier for your friend if they maintain friendships rather than romantic relationships (via HelpGuide). You can provide them with that type of relationship by really listening.


Instead of making this comment, ask them questions about why they feel lonely. Do so without judgement and with an open mind. Really listen to their answers, and validate the things they tell you. Sometimes just opening up to another person who doesn't try to fix the problem can be enough to make another person feel heard. Lonely people often feel like they cannot be vulnerable with others, so showing them that you are a safe person with whom to do that is essential.

'Just go out and have fun.'

If you could actually stop feelings of loneliness by just going out and meeting more people, life would be easier to enjoy. In fact, resolving feelings of loneliness by being surrounded by more people you don't really know can really make these feelings worse. People aren't lonely because they don't know many other people; oftentimes they are lonely because they don't feel their relationships have the depth of understanding.


By suggesting that your friend or loved one go out and have fun, you may be introducing behaviors that will only hurt a lonely person. Sometimes, going out to have fun includes alcohol use or other substances and being in a crowded place, which can all make loneliness feel even more immense. Instead of suggesting more people to surround your friend, your friend actually needs deeper relationships with the friends they have. Be one of the deeper connections by listening to their feelings.

'You need to be more confident.'

Feelings of insecurity are not uncommon with lonely people. Many times when loneliness strikes, those suffering from these feelings turn their focus in rather than out. They start to question what is wrong with them and can get lost in a cycle of harmful thoughts that do nothing to help their emotional wellbeing. By telling your friend or loved one that they need to work on their confidence, you will likely compound the emotional distress. 


According to The Light Program, feelings of insecurity come about because of social expectations put out by others. Insecurities are born out of comparison. If we feel different from others and we cannot relate with those around us, our insecurities can create feelings of isolation and loneliness. Instead of commenting on their low confidence, support them as they talk. Show them that reaching out to you about these feelings was a good idea by providing a judgment-free layer of support.

'Join a group.'

Another dangerous suggestion for someone who is experiencing great loneliness is to just go out and join a book club, fitness group, or card club. Again, loneliness cannot just be extinguished by joining a group of strangers. Those who are lonely actually need fewer, deep friendships. Instead, recognize the validity of these feelings and know they come from a real place.


According to Neuronarrative, loneliness is our cue to renew old connections and re-prioritize who we spend our time with and what we are doing when we connect. Joining a group that only connects those in it by a book or a common interest is a great activity for someone who feels like they are standing on solid ground, but would just make a lonely person feel more alone and disconnected.

'Heal your loneliness with activities you love.'

One comment that seems like it would be a great fix for feelings of this kind is to tell your loved one to seek out the things that they love and do more of those things. If your friend is suffering from loneliness brought about by depression, this could be a detrimental comment because many people weighed down by depressive feelings say that they no longer find joy in what they used to. So telling your friend to do more of what they love can be a frustrating comment for them to hear. 


Instead of offering solutions in this way, the best way to support your lonely friend is to show you care. Spend time listening to them talk, honor their feelings by explaining that they are valid, and ask them how you can best support them. If these feelings are too overwhelming for your friend, having them seek support from professionals can be helpful as well. Mental Health America is a particularly great resource for finding help.