COLD COM­FORT

孙佳慧

The World of Chinese - - SOCIAL CHINESE - BY SUN JIAHUI ( )

How to pro­vide so­lace amid mis­ery 安慰别人的时候,除了“想开点儿”, 你还能说些什么?

Apes­simistic Chi­nese say­ing goes, “Eight or nine out of ten things in life are not as you wish.” (人生不如意事十之八九。R9nsh8ng b&r%y# sh# sh! zh~ b` ji^.) Yes, ex­is­tence may be lit­tle more than a trudge from chore to chore, bro­ken only by flashes of joy or tragedy, so the least you can do is help out a friend in need. The fact is, how­ever, that com­fort­ing some­one is a strange busi­ness, lan­guage-wise. In English, it’s com­mon to say, “there, there”, but where is the “there” to which the first “there” is re­fer­ring? It’s mad­ness. For the art of com­fort­ing in Chi­nese, al­ways ap­ply the right strat­egy, or, as an­other say­ing goes, “Ap­ply medicine ac­cord­ing to the symp­toms (对症下药du# zh-ng xi3 y3o).”

First of all, you should learn the phrase 想开点儿( xi2ng k`i di2nr), which roughly means “let it go”, a plat­i­tude ev­ery­one loves to use but hates to hear. Use this cliché spar­ingly be­cause it can do more harm than good when trot­ted out too promptly or too of­ten. Most peo­ple don’t want such cold­heart­edly ra­tio­nal ad­vice; they just want to vent their emo­tions. For you, as lis­tener, a good rule of thumb is to just am­plify the com­plainer’s emo­tion. If they are an­gry, get an­grier. If they are cry­ing, cry with them and cry harder.

A: I can't believe he cheated on me! How could he do that? T` j$r1n pi3n w6! Z0nme hu# zh-y3ng!

他居然骗我!怎么会这样!

B: It hap­pened once, it will hap­pen again. Get rid of him! Y6u y~ ji& y6u -r, g8n t` f8nsh6u!

有一就有二,跟他分手! A: We've been to­gether for so many years... W6­men z3i y#q@ h0ndu4 ni1n le...

我们在一起很多年了…… B:

He's just scum, so why not dump him? T` ji&sh# y! g- zh`n1n! G3n m1 b& shu2i le t`?

他就是一个渣男!干吗不甩了他?

Keep in mind that it’s a risky ma­neu­ver to per­suade some­one into end­ing a re­la­tion­ship. You can’t re­ally an­tic­i­pate your friend’s emo­tions so be sure to hedge your bets. Oth­er­wise, you’ll end up in an awk­ward po­si­tion when emo­tions cool and the re­la­tion­ship heals.

An­other strat­egy is known as “show­ing a big­ger scar”, en­tirely un­re­lated to the movie Jaws. Rather, it has to do with the Hong Kong TV se­ries Men Don’t Cry, which has the line, “If you are un­happy, tell us, so we can be happy! (你有什么不开心的,说出来让大家开心一下! N@ y6u sh9nme b& k`ix~n de, shu4 ch$lai r3ng d3ji` k`ixin y!xia!)” Peo­ple might not ac­tu­ally en­joy their friends’ mis­for­tune, but let­ting some­one know that your life is also a mess can be ex­tremely com­fort­ing. Mis­ery loves com­pany, and mi­nor set­backs are com­pletely in­fat­u­ated with big-league catas­tro­phe.

A: I have been work­ing like a dog, but can't get a pro­mo­tion or a pay raise. Many of my peers are al­ready man­agers. W6 y#zh! p~nm#ng g4ngzu7, d3n ji&sh# b&n9ng

sh8ngzh! ji`x~n. X^du4 g8n w6 t5ngsh! r&zh! de

t5ngsh# d4u y@j~ng sh# j~ngl@ le.我一直拼命工作,但就是不能升职加薪。许多跟我同时入职的同事都已经是经理了。

B: I un­der­stand, but it's not that bad. To tell you the truth, I haven't been pro­moted in four years! W6 m!ng­bai n@ de g2nsh7u, d3n sh#qing y0 m9i

n3me z`o. Sh!hu3 g3osu n@, w6 y@j~ng s# ni1n m9i sh8ngzh! le!我明白你的感受,但事情也没那么糟。实话告诉你,我已经四年没升职了! A:

I know that's life, but I re­ally feel bad. W6 zh~d3o sh8nghu5 ji&sh# zh-y3ng de, d3n w6 x~nli

zh8n de b& sh$fu.

我知道生活就是这样的,但我心里真的不舒服。

B: Come on! I heard that Tom lost his job last week. At least you are in a much better place than us! Bi9 zh-y3ng! W6 t~ng­shu4 T`ngm^ sh3ngzh4u g`ngg`ng sh~y-, n@ de ch^j#ng zh#sh2o b@ w6­men h2o.

别这样!我听说汤姆上周刚刚失业,你的处境至少比我们好。

Al­though this can give your friend a boost, you risk sound­ing like some­one who makes ev­ery piece of drama about them­selves. As long as you take care to not sound too dis­mis­sive,

MIS­ERY LOVES COM­PANY, AND MI­NOR SET­BACKS ARE COM­PLETELY IN­FAT­U­ATED WITH BIG-LEAGUE CATAS­TRO­PHE

you can all have fun look­ing on the bright side of life. This method can be ap­plied to cur­rent events as well as af­fairs of the heart.

A: Oh my god! Tom Hid­dle­ston got to­gether with Tay­lor Swift! My heart has been bro­ken into pieces! Ti`n a! D6us8n h9 M9imei z3i y#q@ le! W6 de x~n y@j~ng su# ch9ng zh`r le!

天啊!抖森和霉霉在一起了!我的心已经碎成渣儿了!

Their odds of ac­tu­ally get­ting to take a ride on the Loki train may be slim, but that’s no rea­son to be cruel to your fan­girl friends. So, put ev­ery­thing aside, and just say: “Take it easy. You should feel lucky that it’s Tay­lor, be­cause they will to­tally break up soon! (别激动!你应该庆幸是泰勒!因为他们很快就会分手的! Bi9 j~d7ng! N@ y~ngg`i q#ngx#ng sh# T3il-! Y~nw-i t`men h0n ku3i ji& hu# f8nsh6u de!)” See? There’s the in­evitable bright side.

When in doubt, you can al­ways reach for a helpful Chi­nese proverb; if a friend loses his wal­let on the bus, you can con­sole him by say­ing, “It is said that ‘an un­ex­pected loss can can­cel out mis­for­tunes,’ so don’t worry about it. (俗话说‘破财消灾’嘛,算了吧。S%hu3 shu4 ‘ p7 c1i xi`o z`i' ma, su3n le ba.)”

If their mis­ery is about some­thing other than money, you can go for an­other use­ful proverb, “塞翁失马,焉知非福( s3i w8ng sh~ m2, y`n zh~ f8i f%),” which lit­er­ally means, “An old fron­tiers­man loses his horse, but it could be a bless­ing in dis­guise.” The phrase re­lates to a story about an old man whose horse runs away, but then re­turns with sev­eral wild horses from the neigh­bor­ing coun­try. So if you want to say “a bless­ing in dis­guise”, just give the horse phrase a go.

A: I was fired to­day. I re­ally don't know what to do. W6 j~nti`n b-i ch2o y5uy% le. W6 zh8n b& zh~d3o g`i z0nme b3n le.

我今天被炒鱿鱼了。我真不知道该怎么办了。

B: Maybe it's a bless­ing in dis­guise. Haven't you al­ways wanted to go back to univer­sity to fur­ther your stud­ies? This is your chance. S3i w8ng sh~ m2, y`n zh~ f8i f%. N@ b% sh# y#zh! xi2ng

hu! d3xu9 sh8nz3o ma ? Xi3nz3i zh-ngh2o y6u

j~hu# le.塞翁失马,焉知非福。你不是一直想回大学深造吗?现在正好有机会了。

A:I am afraid my res­tau­rant may go bank­rupt soon. I didn't make any profit this month. Ai! W6 de c`nt~ng y3o d2ob# le, zh-ge yu- y# f8n qi1n y0 m9i zhu3nd3o. 唉!我的餐厅要倒闭了,这个月一分钱也没赚到。

B: Well, your food is de­li­cious. You just need to work more on the mar­ket­ing. Why not try some pro­mo­tional events for the Christ­mas sea­son? Sh!p@n m9i w-nti, h0n h2och~. Zh@sh# y3o z3i y!ngxi`o shang xi3 di2nr g4ngfu. Sh-ngd3nji9 q~ji`n

g2o­gao c&xi`o z0n­mey3ng ?食品没问题,很好吃。只是要在营销上下点儿功夫。圣诞期间搞搞促销怎么样?

Try to avoid start­ing sen­tences with, “you should have...” No mat­ter how right you are, it’s still likely that your friend will call you Cap­tain Hind­sight and punch you in the face.

Deal­ing with the de­pressed is dif­fi­cult; you never know if you should tell a joke or make a stir­ring speech. But don’t worry, as long as you care, your friends will no­tice. You just need to make it clear that you are there to lis­ten, that you’re on their side. For this, there is one phrase you need above all: “If you need help, just say the word (需要帮忙的话, 尽管开口。X$y3o b`ng­m1ng dehu3, j@ngu2n k`ik6u. )”

FOR SOME, OP­TI­MISM CAN CON­SOLE; OTH­ERS JUST WANT YOU TO ROLL AROUND IN THE MUCK WITH THEM FOR A WHILE

Again, re­mem­ber that there is no panacea for per­sonal pain. For some, op­ti­mism can con­sole; oth­ers just want you to roll around in the muck with them for a while. Some folks, how­ever, are more prac­ti­cal and need answers more than they need con­sol­ing.

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