At one point in our lives, most, if not all of us have tried to comfort a friend or a family member in a difficult situation. We may have said reassuring things that the other person wanted to hear, have tried to be honest, or may have said things like “at least, it is not as bad as you think,” or “at least, you have another job,” or “at least…..”
I have to admit, now and again, when I talk to others and try to be fully present and empathic, I have to refrain from saying “at least.” Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with saying those words, but sometimes, there are better and more effective words that can be said in certain situations to demonstrate full empathy!
So next time, think about the words that you use when you try to comfort an individual in their most vulnerable situation. If you think by saying “at least,” you may be down playing the person’s situation or condition, conveying that their situation is not as important as they think it is, or just there are other things they should be worried about, think again! Think about what YOU would want to hear and what YOU would find reassuring and validating! Sometimes, all we need is empathy and not sympathy. We need a judgement-free zone, genuineness, and active listening. We need someone to acknowledge our feelings and emotions without offering solutions and passing judgement. The stage where we will begin to think about solutions can come later, but in that moment, we just want that ONE friend, that ONE listening ear, and that ONE empathic and non-judgemental companion 🙂
There, now you are with me 🙂 So try these words next time!! Try saying, “it is difficult…I can see that you are upset,” or “it has to be something serious that has occupied your mind,” or many other variations. I am sure you will think of the right words when the time comes 😉 And before you go, watch this video by Brené Brown! She is brilliant in the way she describes the difference between empathy and sympathy.
“When a person realizes he has been deeply heard, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense he is weeping for joy. It is as though he were saying, “Thank God, somebody heard me. Someone knows what it’s like to be me”
– Carl R. Rogers