the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – Oxford Dictionaries
Having someone confide in you is a great honour (that’s if they’re not leeches that use your emotional labour and give nothing in return but that’s another post for another day) because it means that they trust you enough to feel vulnerable. They entrust you to listen, to support and to offer counsel when asked.
How to empathise right
1. The Golden Rule: Remember that it’s not about you!
When empathising, you should try your best not to talk about yourself or your own experiences unless you have been asked to do so. It can make the person that’s confided in you think that you don’t care about them or that you are equating their pain to yours.
I am not the best at listening, in fact I’m quite a terrible listener. I think it’s partly because I listen intently, process what I’ve heard and I’m too eager to know what happens next. I’ve caught myself finishing off other people’s sentences many times and I usually say the wrong thing. It’s something I’ve worked on and I’m continuing to working on. Listening takes practice, you should try not to interrupt that person when speaking but do show that you’re listening by nodding and responding when they stop or pause.
3. Be supportive
Let your friend or loved one vent, ask them if they need or want you to do anything for them. This is intentionally vague because when know the people you love well enough you’ll know what they require in times of trouble. Some people prefer space while others prefer company. If you have the time, check in on them. Arrange to meet up for a coffee/drink to catch up. A simple gesture like that let’s them know that you are there for them.
4. Don’t do this
At least 22 people were killed in a suicide attack at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester last night.
Kim Kardashian-West took to twitter to show her love and support for Ariana.
She is one of many celebrities today who decided to make this tragedy an opportunity to make it about themselves. Sky News even broadcasted celebrity reactions to the attack as if they were the ones immediately affected but this post isn’t about our obsession with celebrities and celebrity culture.
However well-intentioned Kim might have been this is an example of how not to empathise. Her message didn’t require a picture, it could have easily been said without it. It definitely didn’t require a picture with Kim in it. I doubt she intended to place herself at the centre of Ariana Grande’s grief but she did. I understand that Kim probably wanted Ariana to remember the good times but that being said, it would have been better if she had called her or messaged her privately.
Cultivating good relationships is about thinking about others before yourself. Stepping outside of yourself and putting your problems aside and being 100% there for that person, in that moment.
Disclaimer: I’m no expert and here’s some unsolicited advice from me to me to you.
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