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The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  185 ratings  ·  36 reviews
We live in an increasingly "virtual" world in which it can be tempting to skip making that true, human connection with someone in pain. Even though our thoughts might be with them, we lack the confidence to reach out, worrying that we will say or do the "wrong" thing.

In this practical, step-by-step guide to what she calls "the art of comforting," Val Walker draws on nume
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 28th 2010 by TarcherPerigee
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  185 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Heidi The Reader
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
"Qualities like gentleness, patience, warmth, and empathy can be so undervalued in this day and age that when we need to sit down with someone devastated by a loss or turbulent change in their lives, we often feel unsure about what to say or do." pg 7, ebook.

Author Val Walker discovered first-hand that there is a lack of knowledge about offering comfort in the modern age. She was going through a divorce and relocation, and had no one to confide in. She said her friends and family members were ei
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I've been in the company of someone grieving or in distress, I've always felt awkward or uncomfortable because I didn't know what to say or even how to act. After reading through this book, I now feel a little more confident in handling such a situation and just hope I can remember some of phrases and advice given. I really liked some of the phrases to avoid and what to say. Examples include instead of saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.", say "How are you doing with all t ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read for CBR6 - Review Cross posted here

You know those personality tests you take (mostly online now, but I’m from the stone age when I had to take some of mine on a Scan-tron), and they supposedly tell you what careers you’d be good at or what traits are your strongest? Well mine always came/come back teacher, or counselor. Which was a good thing, as I always knew I’d be a teacher, and when it came to my family and friends, even as a kid, I might as well have hung out a sign (a la Lucy from Pea
Angie Locke
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book HIGHLY ENOUGH! It's a life-changer. Please, please, please, read it... so important for everyone to understand who has relationships with people they care about deeply enough to explore ways to communicate and share your heart the most effectively when they are in pain. ...more
Trudy Pomerantz
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Trudy by: Amanda Dilday
Shelves: piety
A well-written book from someone who understands suffering. Unfortunately, in Christian circles two views seem to predominate when someone is suffering. The first is to tell you that God means it for our good. It is not that this is not true but what is being forgotten is that we were told to weep with those who weep. Knowing that we live in a fallen world and that God has a plan in all that we are going through does not take away the pain. Most Christians know that God is sovereign and don't ne ...more
PK Reeves
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Art of Comforting guidance is supreme. Review up on Aisle B ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Do people really need a book to know that when someone's sad you have to listen??? ...more
Adrielle Stapleton
I borrowed this copy but I think this book is worth keeping around as a reference.
I really wish I could rate this higher, because there's a lot of good information in it. It's not the most in-depth comforting guide out there, but it is a very good starting point for anyone who genuinely wants to improve on comforting others.

The downside is that the book is extremely unbalanced, especially so when the author begins discussing the significant comforters that she interviewed for the primary material of the novel. The book slams to a halt to talk about their backgrounds, then qui
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Thanks to Tumblr, I picked up this title with the hopes of understanding how best I can comfort those who are hurting in my life. I've never been at ease with providing comfort and never knowing what to say to those who are so evidently hurting. I felt self-conscious and uncertain of what to say and how to be. Then, my mother-in-law suddenly fell ill and later died rather quickly earlier this year, which put my comforting abilities to the test. Much of what I learned in this book helped me to co ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is so applicable to life in general if you want to improve relationships and be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, neighbor, etc! I am truly inspired by this book. I think everyone should read it because it offers insight into how the person going through grief wants to be loved. There is no way to understand something completely unless you experience it or read about others that experience it. This gives you an inside view of how people in distress feel and how to give them what ...more
Bryan Tanner
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm terrible at comforting others. I think logically, not emotionally. I'm so bad at comforting people in fact that I sought help from a read a book to help me understand how it's done. The book is just a collection of interviews of the most comforting people the author knows. Reading their stories was just what I needed to prime my pump. After reading other's stories, they helped me recognize opportunities to practice empathy in my own life. Over the course of a few months, I became hypersensit ...more
Anna Kendig
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really useful as a reflection tool with parish care teams or just for anyone who wants to think about how to be with people who are going through difficult times. Offers impressions from professionals in the non-profit, therapeutic and ministerial fields as well as just general suggestions like a what not to say/what's better" grid that offers better options than saying "Maybe it's for the best" to someone who's in a difficult place. Highly readable. ...more
This book is easy to read and covers everything. The thing that makes it great is that it gives advice for any kind of person, so you can develop your style of comforting based on your own strengths, and learn how to improve your weaker areas. I read it because I'm a counselor and a follower of captain awkward's blog (where I got the recommendation) but really everyone would benefit from reading this book, it will help everyone you interact with. ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: human-behavior
It is good to take the time out and consider the ideas presented in the book. I just wish it could have been presented in a more effective manner. I found that passages ran too long filled with details burying the message.
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: healing, self-help
This book offers its message clearly and simply. Even just skimming through it, I gleaned enough to gain perspective on the art of offering comfort. Putting in the tables was a great idea. There are also interesting lists of resources at the back of the book.
Pearse Anderson
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference, nonfiction
Very aged for the modern day, hardly takes the internet into account for this. Good stuff, good examples,mouth the latter half is full of cumbersome lists about good movies and whatnot. Eh, I could see it be done better and in a less wordy fashion.
Martha Grace
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
There was not much information for me, coming through the school of Hard Knocks, but I will recommend this.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I freakin' love this book! The tone of the book is wonderful and well...comforting. ...more
NiaDwynwen Thomas
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is very user-friendly. If you can skim through the little personal stories, there are some really helpful ideas about how to effectively comfort.
James B
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-i-own
very useful book, bang on the point! highly recommend, comforting is indeed a lost art in this fast paced world
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Book includes many helpful thoughts and suggestions for those who want to comfort others.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
A friend of mine lost her husband & this book was helpful.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it liked it
As a whole I wasn't impressed with this book, which is mostly composed of interviews, however, it has one wonderful treasure worth reading it for - the conversational suggestions. ...more
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Five stars to the lists of things that are so much better to say than others. That elevated the book for me despite my cynicism about the more woo woo parts.
Ellen O'Brien
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This taught me how to listen, it was a nice read :-)
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book on how to help those who need comforting. Many great examples of situations. Excellent supplement book for Stephen Ministers.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is loaded with practical ideas, anecdotes, and resources for all types of comforting. The author interviews several people in comforting professions or types of work. I really enjoyed the variety of ideas presented here and how she makes use of art and nature therapy, including animals. She also wisely presents a chapter on helping comforters take care of themselves, as compassion fatigue is common in the work of helping and caring for people. Though I find her resource list quite subj ...more
Daylynn Foster
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Every page was useful and inspiring. I especially liked the charts of Do's & Don't's to comfort, & Platitudes, which were more helpful and which were less helpful. The guidebook of recommendations in the back is wonderful! Excellent gift for someone who wants to be better at comforting or someone you love as a comforter or is going into ministry or something along that line, a favorite caregiver for your loved one...I could go on & on. Definitely worth sharing with anyone. :) ...more
Liz Nutt
Nov 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: women, 2020
I wanted a book that would help me be a better listener and kind presence for people. This book was good, it had helpful advice, and explained why certain comforting methods work. I liked it, but it didn't blow my mind. I would recommend this for anyone who wants help with communicating with people in distress, but I would say to skip to the parts you like. You don't need to consume the whole book. ...more
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Val Walker, MS, is a contributing blogger for Psychology Today and the Health Story Collaborative in Boston. Her newest book, 400 Friends and No One to Call: Breaking Through Isolation and Building Community, is being released on March 26, 2020, with Central Recovery Press. Walker is the author of The Art of Comforting (Penguin/Random House, 2010) which was a gold medalist for the Nautilus Book Aw

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“Being strong with someone means creating a sanctuary for someone in pain, a respite from the busy, indifferent world around us, just sitting down, listening, and allowing the person to acknowledge his or her pain.” 0 likes
“Support, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means to “bear the weight of.” In our supporting roles, as facilitators, we can help to bear the weight of our loved one’s distress, by serving to sustain a comforting environment and contributing to related activities and resources.” 0 likes
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