Before you tell someone, “Don’t worry about it,” DON’T!

In fact, don’t even say “Don’t worry.” Just these two words alone are a mistake to tell someone, even if they are visibly worrying.

It’s just plain inappropriate to tell someone, “Don’t worry.” If you’re in the habit of doing this, ask yourself the following questions:

“Whenever I tell someone, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ do I have a solution to their problem?”

“Whenever I’ve told a person, ‘Don’t worry,’ did they suddenly brighten up?”

You know the answer is NO to both questions. People don’t want to be told not to worry.

They want solutions to the problem that’s making them upset or concerned.

Invalidating their emotions by telling them don’t worry will not make the problem go away—and they know that. And YOU know that.

Psychology 101 is that the listener makes this lame directive because they don’t know what else to say.

They lack solutions and good advice. Their minds are a blank, so to fill the empty air space, they say “don’t worry.”

And then they have nothing to back up this directive, such as a solution, recommendation or other fix to the problem.

I never tell people not to worry.

Instead, I jump right into offering helpful advice. There is always some way to give help to a fretting person, even if it’s to suggest keywords to google to see what possible information comes up that they can benefit from.

Another peeve is when the individual says, “Don’t worry about it,” in a demeaning or irate tone.

This really puts me on the defensive and makes me feel I must clarify why I’m “worrying” about something.

Another problem with this absurd directive is that many times, it’s an erroneous observation.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been told don’t worry when in fact, I wasn’t the least bit vexed.

When this happens, I always call that person out on their wrong assumption, their inability to read someone.

One day I called out my brother on this. I was merely making some comments about the fact that our three-year-old nephew still was not talking.

I was not troubled about this; honestly. At the time, I’d met the nephew only twice in my life and was not in contact with his parents, but my parents were.

So after my casual comment, my brother gruffly stated, “Oh don’t worry about it!”

That set me off. I chastised him for making this wrong assumption. Now you may call me neurotic or overreactive, but I firmly believe that when a person commits a faux pas, they should be called on it.

If my brother, in fact, had been the one to begin commenting about the nephew not talking yet at age three, I would have joined in on the topic and added to it, rather than shutting him down with an irate “Oh don’t worry about it!”

“When someone tells you, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ or, ‘It’s not that bad,’ or anything along the lines of suggesting you are overreacting, that does nothing to change how you feel,” explains Patricia Celan, MD, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada.

“Such comments can be seen as dismissive and minimizing,” continues Dr. Celan.

“People would rather feel heard and be told that their feelings are valid, instead of being told to not have those feelings at all – an invalidating response that makes people not want to further confide in the speaker.”

THINK before you tell a person not to worry, even if they’re very visibly upset about something, even if they’re crying.

People want solutions, not invalidation of their emotions.

Even if no solution exists, it’s still highly inappropriate to say those two words. They are overused, patronizing and insulting.

Dr. Celan is a post-graduate trainee in psychiatry, working in diagnosing and treating patients with psychiatric conditions. She is passionate about psychotherapy, especially in trauma, anxiety and depression.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.