6 loving mantras to say when you don’t know what to say

6 loving mantras to say when you don't know what to say

We all have times when we don’t know what to say. The situation clearly calls for communication, but we’re out of words.

Here are six mantras from Thich Nhat Hanh that we can repeat to others so they’ll know we love them.

1. “I am here for you.

Sometimes it’s enough just to show up. Our presence is often the best present we can give. But when we show up, saying this sentence will tie the bow on our gift of presence.

2. “I know you are there, and I am very happy.

But what about when someone shows up for us? That often leaves us at a loss for words, too. This statement acknowledges that we see their gift of presence, we receive it, and we value it as a good gift.

3. “I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.

When we notice a friend or loved one is in pain, we can use this sentence. It’s an extra layer on the first mantra: Not only am I here for you, but I really see you in this situation. Often we comfort others the greatest by acknowledging their pain, not by attempting to fix it.

4. “I suffer, please help.

This one is harder for us to say, especially if the person we’re talking to is the person we perceive to be causing our suffering. While our pride urges us to say the opposite—“I don’t suffer; I don’t need your help“—by acknowledging that we do need help, we are speaking in love and humility.

5. “This is a happy moment.”

When we experience victories, these words come easily. And when our friend experiences victories, we also can acknowledge that we feel joy with them. But even in ordinary moments, find reasons to celebrate and be grateful for the here and now.

6. “You are partly right.

When we are praised, say this to remind ourselves not to take the compliment too seriously (maybe out loud, maybe silently). Likewise, also say this when we are criticized (at least say it internally). By accepting our common humanity, we won’t become “a victim of a prideful illusion” nor will we condemn ourselves for a weakness.

When we improve our communication, we improve our relationships. Using our intention to listen deeply and our words to love profoundly, we understand more and are understood more, one person at a time.

* * *

Which saying can you use today? Which one would you most like to hear today? Please share in the comments.

31 thoughts on “6 loving mantras to say when you don’t know what to say

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Good list, Lisa!

    There are a couple of expressions I use, that date back to the Viet Nam conflict…but as not many people know them any more, I generally use them in the privacy of my mind.

    The first is “xin loi”, pronounced sin loy, which can mean anything from the deepest empathy to “tough s***”, and can sometimes hold both meanings at the same time…at which point it can often be the most useful and heartening.

    The second, applied to myself when facing pain and heartache, is “don’t mean nothing”. It’s a nod to the callousness of some events and some people, and that there is something inside me which need not be traumatized by such things as physical discomfort, loss, or betrayal.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing these expressions, Andrew. It’s interesting to hear the things other people say, even if only in their mind. “Don’t mean nothing” reminds me of Father Thomas Keating’s “This doesn’t matter.” Taken in context, these are very useful indeed.

  2. Sharon

    I like this list very much. I think #3 is something I can use (and have been using lately) with a dear long-distance friend who is facing a pretty severe diagnosis. I want her to know that I am entering into her pain with her. And that I am here for her, whenever she needs to talk. Even though we live on opposite sides of the country, our presence with each other is keenly felt in the heart. Sometimes that is more than enough.

    And #2 is always meaningful to me, especially with blog friends whom I don’t see or talk to in person. Just knowing these people (including YOU!) are in my life means the world to me.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sharing in your friend’s suffering is such a gift, Sharon. I’m sure she appreciates that so much. And you’re right, we don’t have to live as physical next-door neighbors to be connected next-door in our hearts. I love that about the internet. So I’ll say back to you, “I know you are there, Sharon, and I am very happy.” Blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I think maybe #1 is first for a reason? It’s definitely the most profound gift we possess, and sometimes I can be stingy with it, even unintentionally, when I’m not giving my attention to the person at hand. I want to do better. I’m so grateful that God has this one perfected: He is always here for us!

  3. floyd

    Those are great words of communication, ones found only in humility as you pointed out. I guess the one for me to hear today would have to be number two.

    It’s funny, we kind of use these words with one another in blog land to support and encourage. This is a good reminder for me to use them audibly to those closest to me as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like #2 as well. Because I do know that you’re here and that makes me happy. 🙂 I hadn’t thought about it specifically in the blogosphere when I wrote it, but yes, we do say these kinds of things among ourselves a lot. That makes me happy to think about. So I go to #5, “This is a happy moment.”

  4. Kath

    I love so much of Thich Nat Han’s wise writings and words. he always offers such interesting, simple and poetic insights into life’s difficulties. These are beautiful mantras I will remember! Thank you Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m new to Thich Nat Hahn’s writings but I already see why you love them so much. He says some powerful things with such few words. I’m about to start my 3rd book of his in just a few weeks. 🙂 Continuing to pray for his full recovery so that he’ll be able to communicate even more truth to us for a few more years to come.

  5. Mary Geisen

    I like your list of mantras. I am partial to “I am here for you” just because they are words I have needed to for myself recently. What I really treasure is when someone just shows up to be with me. The gift of presence is part of my love language. I also would add “How can I help you?” because too often we say “Can I help you?” and the immediate answer is “No”. Hope you have a blessed week.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What an excellent addition to add “HOW” can I help, instead of just “can” I help. It’s easy to turn down a generic offer for help, but harder to turn down a more concrete invitation. The gift of presence is definitely one of the greatest things we have to give and receive from each other! Thanks for your presence here, Mary. 🙂

  6. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I think recognizing someone is suffering and offering yourself is a beautiful gift for any season. So I like #3. Offering a way for that person to lean on you, or share their burden is a priceless gift.
    Happy Fat Tuesday!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Ceil. Having someone offer to share in our suffering is something to treasure. But offering to share in someone else’s suffering may be one of the hardest things we can do! Blessed are those who do it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I thought these mantras were too good to pass up too, Katie. I read them in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “The Art of Communicating,” but I’ve seen them pop up in other places where he’s written as well.

  7. Debbie Putman

    Lisa, I especially liked #2: I know you’re there, and I am very happy. Simple words to acknowledge how much someone means to me when I can’t quite summon more, but want to show I notice and it matters. Thank you for these wise words.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      #2 is definitely a good one, and one that I need to say more often. I think it more than I say it. But wouldn’t it be sweet for the other person if I actually said it out loud? 🙂 Thanks, Debbie.

  8. Jean Wise

    Good list because there IS tough situation where words are hard to find. I often say – I know there are no words to say right now and no words would help anyway, just know I am thinking and praying for you. admitting that is hard for this wordsmith… good post, Lisa

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Admitting we don’t know what to say can be tough. But I agree with you, Jean, often that can be THE very thing we need to say. Sometimes fewer words speak louder than an overabundance of them.

  9. bluecottonmemory

    I’m a fix it personality learning to let go and let God – not just for me but for others, too – and that means learning to better empathize. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them – and just provide empathy, support and care. Your list is a good reminder of that – and gentle suggestions for how I need to better do it! Shalom, Lisa!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Learning to empathize and not “fix” is a hard lesson for all of us, Maryleigh. I had to use #4 last night with my husband, “I suffer, please help.” [And I learned, again, that sometimes it works much better on paper (or screen) than in person.] Eventually I decided to add more words about not “fixing” me, but just listening to me would be most helpful. 🙂 We all have plenty of room yet to grow. I wish I could pour some Miracle-Gro in my soul to speed things up.

  10. Beverley

    As I am now attending a new church , it has been an eye-opener being the stranger in the mist instead of the person that everyone knows well. Several of the church members are elderly and although I said hello and introduced myself I didn’t think I would have anything of any consequence to say to any of them, that was until just last Sunday when whilst speaking to one of these wonderful, who had been unwell, she remarked how lonely she felt since her husband had passed away three years previously and how being ill had made things all the more difficult for her and understood how she felt and although my husband is not dead, being alone is still being alone.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Doesn’t it give us a different perspective when WE are the new ones? I relate to that. We changed churches four years ago, and it was a weird feeling being the one out of the loop. But it was good to see how that felt again, so I can be more sensitive to other newcomers now. I’m glad you were able to connect with the elderly widow. I’m sure she was blessed by your encounter and will welcome seeing you again soon! We usually have more in common with people than we realize.

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