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If someone is spilling their feelings to you through a text, you probably want to come up with the exact right thing to say. But how do you do that when you don't have the benefit of using a compassionate tone of voice, putting your hand on their shoulder, or giving them a hug? Luckily, our guide is here to help you show the other person that you're listening and you care about helping them feel better—even through text.

Method 1
Method 1 of 12:
Be open to hearing them without judgment.

  1. 1
    Let the other person know you're there to listen. Sometimes when someone is going through a hard time, they really just need to talk about it. Even if they're upset about something you did, it's important to listen without getting defensive or being judgmental.[1]
    • Try saying something like, "I'm here for you," "You're not in this alone," or, "You can talk to me about anything."
    • Encourage them to talk to you freely by asking follow-up questions, like "Then what happened?" or "Can you tell me more about that?"
    • Let them know that you appreciate them they opened up to you by saying something like, "Thank you so much for sharing that with me."[2]
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Method 2
Method 2 of 12:
Ask questions if you need clarification about their feelings.

  1. 1
    It can be really hard to read emotions through texts. You don't have the benefit of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language to help you figure out how the other person is feeling. You'll probably be able to pick up on the gist of what they're going through, especially if you know the person well. Still, if anything seems unclear or ambiguous, it's best to ask.[3]
    • For instance, it's hard to tell whether someone is being sarcastic or sincere if they simply text, "Great." In that case, just say, "Sorry, I can't tell, were you being sarcastic?"
    • You can also ask questions like, "What frustrates you most about that?" or "What's worrying you the most right now?"[4]
    • Try putting yourself in their shoes by saying something like, "It sounds like you're feeling really sad. Is that right?"

Method 3
Method 3 of 12:
Manage your own emotions.

  1. 1
    React calmly, even if you're upset too. If someone messages you with something upsetting—like they're mad at you or something bad has happened—take a moment before you respond. Take a few deep breaths to settle yourself, and think about what to say. Before you send a text back, ask yourself, "Will this help or make things worse?"[5]
    • For instance, if your partner texts you saying you did something that upset them, don't send back a long paragraph justifying what you did. Instead, breathe deeply, then reply with something like, "I'm really sorry that I hurt you. Is there anything I can do to make it better?"
    • If a friend messages you saying their partner just left them, don't immediately start badmouthing the ex. Say something like, "You must be really hurting. Want to get drinks after work and talk about it?"
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Method 5
Method 5 of 12:
Use follow-up questions.

  1. 1
    Focus on something specific they said and ask more about it. Read through the other person's texts and pick out words that seem important. Then, ask them to elaborate on that. This will show them you're listening, and it can also help them sort through their complicated feelings. For instance:[8]
    • If they say, "I'm always messing things up," you might say, "Can you tell me more about things you think you've messed up?"
    • If they say, "You never listen to me," you might say, "Are there other times you felt I wasn't being a good listener?"
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Method 6
Method 6 of 12:
Keep the focus on them.

  1. 1
    Now's not the time to talk about your own problems. If someone is messaging you and they're upset, don't change the subject and start talking about yourself. Even if you have a lot going on, you can always deal with that in another conversation.[9]
    • For instance, if they're talking about getting fired from their job, don't say, "Ugh yeah I had a bad day too. First, my car broke down..."
    • It's fine to share if you can relate to what they're going through. For instance, you might say, "I felt really angry when my mom died too. I'm here any time you need someone to talk to."

Method 8
Method 8 of 12:
Tell the other person something you like about them.

  1. 1
    Talking about their good qualities might help them feel better. It's always nice to have someone build you up when you're feeling down. Whether the issue is with you or someone else, complimenting your friend's character might help them feel like you really appreciate them and you're there to help.[11]
    • For instance, you might say, "I know I let you down. But you're one of the smartest, funniest people I know and I really value you as a friend. I hope you can forgive me."
    • Or, you might say, "I'm so sorry you and Jeff broke up. He's really missing out if he can't see how amazing and kind you are."

Method 9
Method 9 of 12:
Ask how you can help.

Method 10
Method 10 of 12:
Talk about solutions if they're open to it.

  1. 1
    Ask first so you don't overstep. Don't assume the other person wants you to fix their problem. However, they might appreciate your help brainstorming steps they can take next. To be sure, ask your friend if they want to talk about what to do next.[13]
    • For example, you could say, "It seems like you're saying you're really unhappy at your job. If you want, I could help you research other jobs in your field."
    • You might also say, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I don't always think before I say things. I'll try to be more mindful of that, and maybe we could come up with a code word you can say next time I'm crossing a line so I'll know to stop."

Method 11
Method 11 of 12:
Ask them if you can call them.

  1. 1
    It can be easier to deal with tough conversations in a call. If they're open to it, you could even jump on a quick video call. That way, you'll be able to pick up on more nuance in what they're saying. It can often be easier for you to respond in a natural, empathetic way when you're talking than when you're texting, too.[14]
    • Say something like, "Can I call you? I have too much to say to text it all."
    • If you'd rather talk in person, you could say, "Hey are you free to grab a coffee right now? I'd love to talk more about this and it seems like you could use a hug."
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Method 12
Method 12 of 12:
Follow up with them later.

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      About This Article

      Amy Bobinger
      Co-authored by:
      wikiHow Staff Writer
      This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Amy Bobinger. Amy Bobinger has been a writer and editor at wikiHow since 2017. She especially enjoys writing articles that help people overcome interpersonal hurdles but frequently covers a variety of subjects, including health and wellness, spirituality, gardening, and more. Amy graduated with a B.A. in English Lit from Mississippi College in 2011 and now lives in her hometown with her husband and two young sons. This article has been viewed 12,047 times.
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      Co-authors: 8
      Updated: January 14, 2022
      Views: 12,047
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