When you are confiding in someone you trust about a situation you are in, it’s not uncommon to receive advice; either solicited or unsolicited. When someone advises you to stay strong, you may not know how to respond because it’s such a vague and emotionless sentiment.
While the sentiment to stay strong isn’t ill-intentioned, you may need more support than this. You can simply respond in an equally vague way, or let someone know what you need and how you feel.
You can respond to “Stay Strong” as follows:
- “Thank you.”
- “I Will Try.”
- “I Need To Feel My Feelings First.”
- “I Need Help To Stay Strong.”
- “I Can’t Be Strong All The Time.”
- “I Understand You Mean Well, But I Need ____.”
- “I Will Get There, But Right Now, I Feel Weak.”
- “Please Let Me Process This First.”
- “I Cannot Hear That Right Now.”
- “Thank You, But I Feel ____.”
- “I Just Need You To Listen Right Now, And Not Say Anything.”
Below, we detail each answer and explain how to adapt the phrases depending on the situation.
You can simply respond to someone who tells you to stay strong with a thank you and then move on to another topic. It might be best to not try and dwell on the person’s response to your situation. Once again, their intentions are good.
You don’t have to give a big response to a small sentiment if you are not in the emotional headspace to do so.
Sometimes people don’t know how to properly respond to emotionally charged events. Therefore, they might not know what else to say other than to stay strong.
“I Will Try.”
“Stay strong” can be an empty sentiment, but it can also be someone’s way of trying to show you that they are concerned for your well-being. It could be them expressing hope that you will be able to get through this hurdle. That’s part of the issue with this phrase; it can be open to interpretation.
If you don’t have the emotional space to confront a person about why this may not be the most helpful thing to say, you don’t have to. You don’t owe them that at the moment when things are too tough.
You may have to circle back to the situation when you feel a little bit more clarity to express why you might need more than a “stay strong.” You can simply reassure the person that you are trying your best to manage yourself through the horrible situation you are in at the time.
“I Need To Feel My Feelings First.”
Part of what can rub someone the wrong way when they are told to stay strong is it feels dismissive of the very valid feelings of sadness, fear, or grief. For example, when someone close to us passes away, it’s nearly impossible to be strong, especially when the grief is so fresh.
It’s okay if someone telling you to stay strong upsets you. Even if it means well, it may not be what you need to hear.
It’s also okay to stand up for yourself in a polite yet firm way to let someone know that you want to be given some time to process your thoughts and emotions.
You can reply to someone who tells you to stay strong by telling them you need some time to feel what you are feeling before you can get to the point where you can be strong.
“I Need Help To Stay Strong.”
If you need someone to help support you beyond their kind words, they may not know this. It can be hard to ask for help, but it’s almost impossible to receive the help you need without vocalizing it.
Some people are also just simply uncomfortable when it comes to tension and high amounts of emotion. They might feel like telling someone something simple like “stay strong” is the easy way out. They are showing that they care without really making the effort to care.
One of the best things about having good friends in your life is being able to lean on them when things are too difficult to face on your own.
You may have to take small steps towards being vulnerable enough to accept their help, but the best first step is saying something.
That being said, having meaningful relationships with people also comes with responsibility. You can let someone know that what you need out of your relationship is a certain type of support. They may need to ask you questions to know exactly what you need.
Give them the freedom to learn about your needs so they can meet them. If they refuse, it may not be the best relationship or the most reliable one.
“I Can’t Be Strong All The Time.”
Nobody is invincible or impenetrable. None of us can be strong all the time. If being told to stay strong bothers you, you can tell someone so in a polite way that also lets them know how you truly feel. Telling someone you cannot be strong all the time lets you be honest with them without offending them.
“I Understand You Mean Well, But I Need ____.”
Everyone feels their grief in stages and in their way, according to Web MD.  Therefore, it can be hard for someone to know the right way to support you in your time of need. We cannot expect others to read our minds and know the right thing to say all the time.
Being direct with someone about what you need isn’t always the easiest thing to do, and it might make you feel like you’re telling someone how to treat you. However, if they don’t know what you need, they cannot provide it for you.
If you feel comfortable enough in the current moment to express what you need from someone, don’t be afraid to do so. You can let them know you appreciate them trying to be supportive. Then, you can advise them what you need from them.
This might be that you need someone to just listen to you, that you just need a hug, that you need help with particular tasks, or that you just want to cry and have someone with you while you do so.
This person might be struggling with how exactly they can be there for you in your time of need and may be relieved to know that they can do more than just say something nice.
“I Will Get There, But Right Now, I Feel Weak.”
Just because you might look like you are being strong to someone else, it doesn’t mean that you feel strong. You know that you will get to a point where you can power through your current situation, but it takes time.
For someone to know that you are not strong at the moment, you might need to tell them.
They may think you’re handling something well, but it could either be a facade or just completely untrue.
When someone knows you are feeling weak, they may try to find out what they can do to carry some of the weight you are feeling until you feel ready to do it yourself.
“Please Let Me Process This First.”
There is no right way or wrong way to respond to a traumatic event, a loss, or a battle you might be having with your mood, emotions, or health. Being told to stay strong can sometimes feel as though you don’t have the permission to process what you are going through. Instead, it feels like you’re being told to just suck it up.
You can gently tell someone that you are still processing everything that you are going through at the moment and that strength is not an option right now.
“I Cannot Hear That Right Now.”
In the throes of grief, sadness, and despair, the least helpful thing might be advisable. A person may feel inclined to advise because they think that is the only way to help, but it can end up being more harmful, especially in the toughest of moments.
The last thing you might want to do in those hard moments is trying and plan how you are going to get out of it.
Sometimes, all you need is for someone to just understand the fact that you are going through something, and just simply validate your feelings.
You might not be in the phase of your pain to hear certain things. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone this. They should get the message that you are not looking for advice or well-wishes that don’t mean a lot at the moment.
“Thank You, But I Feel ____.”
If you feel safe enough, tell the person what you are feeling at the moment. Allow them to better understand your mental state when you are speaking with them. They may not know just how much you are struggling.
Telling someone what you are feeling can also allow them to seek out how they can help you if they are even able to help you at all.
It can feel like a little bit of the weight you are carrying is lifted off when you just let out all of your feelings verbally.
“I Just Need You To Listen Right Now, And Not Say Anything.”
It can feel like you have to say something when you know someone is struggling. Many times, people will just blurt out things like “stay strong” because they don’t know what else to say. They might assume that if they are just silent, it’ll make you think that they don’t care.
If you are not looking for advice at the moment, and what you truly need is someone to listen to you vent, tell them that.
If they are in the headspace to listen, they should be fine with this.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.