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When ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ are Not Enough: Why it’s Time to Humanize Crisis Statements

In the wake of the Uvalde school tragedy, the frequent call that “thoughts and prayers are not enough” resonated deeply. This sentiment underscores a growing numbness towards standardized expressions of empathy and compassion, which, while well-intentioned, often fall short in the face of real crisis. As these phrases become routine, their ability to truly address emotional pain diminishes, highlighting a need for more meaningful communication.

The practice of issuing corporate statements in times of crisis has become formulaic, often shaped more by legal considerations than genuine emotion. This approach results in communications that, while safe, lack the sincerity needed to resonate with those affected by tragedy. It’s time to evolve how we craft these messages, ensuring they truly reflect empathy and human connection, rather than just ticking off a checklist of expected responses.

At the heart of this issue is the difference between apologies and empathy. While apologies have their place, expressions of genuine empathy and compassion are critical, especially if they represent true sentiments rather than corporate rhetoric. The challenge lies in guiding leaders to navigate this nuanced landscape, balancing professionalism with the need for heartfelt communication. This shift requires a fundamental change in how leaders engage with crises, moving away from detached statements to responses that genuinely reflect the organization’s values and commitment to stakeholder wellbeing.

Recently, Deborah Hileman wrote about this for PR News.  Let’s see what she had to say…

After the Uvalde school shootings, several people said publicly that [statements of] “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” They were right. Unfortunately, we are desensitized to these expressions as empathy-and-compassion statements have become commoditized. As a result, they have lost their power to ease the emotional pain that accompanies crises.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of corporate statements issued for every manner of issue and crisis. The language has become what I would characterize as “textbook”—consistent, acceptable to attorneys—and wholly inadequate. The phrases lack emotion and they have been used so much as to be rendered pointless. It is time to rethink how we approach these statements.

Emotions are raw in a crisis, and even well-meaning but standard statements can be misinterpreted by victims and other stakeholders. We don’t want to create additional issues by failing to give these communications the attention they deserve.

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Photo Credit: shutterstock_115086937


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