When I see someone who is obviously upset about something, I do what I would like people to do to me, in the same situation: I smile and greet them cheerfully.
Sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Well, let me explain.
If someone’s weeping in public or semi-public, they’re apparently in too much of a fugue state to hide these extreme emotions. They may be in a panic. Or they may be depressed.
In the first case, someone greeting them, as if everything is normal, may give them that nudge that they need to pull themselves together and act normal, and then start sorting things out.
In the second case, when someone’s depressed, one of the many thoughts eating at them may be “Oh god…I am a blot on humanity…Everyone’s looking at me and I’m bringing them down…I wish I could act normal like everyone else but I can’t!” If someone gives them a smile and a kind word, they may be cheered with the knowledge that they’re not a spectacle after all (even if they are). They may be cheered to know that at least one person has enough regard for them to say hello, as if they’re as good as everyone else.
I just get offended when people ask “What’s wrong?” and then get impatient when you tell them. If you roll your eyes, sigh, or even walk away wordlessly before they finish (as someone once did to me. Hey, you asked, :wally), you’ve just given them another reason to feel bad. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t ask. It’d be different if I’d said “Can I talk to you”. And if someone does ask you that, don’t say “Yes” if you don’t have the time to listen.
If you’re not a therapist, or a very close friend, I think it’s a very bad idea to invite someone to tell you about a problem that you’re not qualified to help them solve. A kind gesture goes much further than armchair psychiatry. “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”
So what do you think?