One of our fundamental longings as human beings is to be heard and to be accepted as we are. Take a moment to recall a time where you were going through a hard time and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I imagine.
When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged: we no longer feel alone; we feel understood; we become calmer; we usually feel better and are more able to handle a difficult situation.
Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open loving way. It feels good to us, yet how often do we intentionally empathize with someone else … especially when someone is angry or frustrated?
Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how it can be especially difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources and those who are closest to us.
One of my favorite take aways is:
“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”
When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “but” and a “fix” for the other person. Yet empathy is more powerful and empowering.
He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”
Why not increase your ability to empathize with this exercise:
Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through.
Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:
It sounds like you are really frustrated about this
I can see that this is tough for you
I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard
I’m sensing that this is scary for you
I hear that you are concerned
It sounds like this is a real challenge for you
It sounds so simple, yet can be hard to do in that moment. So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.
Give the gift of feeling heard and understood.