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$r1n pi3n w6! Z0nme hu# zh-y3ng!
B: It happened once, it will happen again. Get rid of him! Y6u y~ ji& y6u -r, g8n t` f8nsh6u!
有一就有二，跟他分手！ A: We've been together for so many years... W6men z3i y#q@ h0ndu4 ni1n le...
He's just scum, so why not dump him? T` ji&sh# y! g- zh`n1n! G3n m1 b& shu2i le t`?
Keep in mind that it’s a risky maneuver to persuade someone into ending a relationship. You can’t really anticipate your friend’s emotions so be sure to hedge your bets. Otherwise, you’ll end up in an awkward position when emotions cool and the relationship heals.
Another strategy is known as “showing a bigger scar”, entirely unrelated to the movie Jaws. Rather, it has to do with the Hong Kong TV series Men Don’t Cry, which has the line, “If you are unhappy, tell us, so we can be happy! (你有什么不开心的，说出来让大家开心一下！ N@ y6u sh9nme b& k`ix~n de, shu4 ch$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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.