Empathy

Wanting to Contribute

Your friend comes over to tell you about a recent upsetting incident. By the end of the story, with clenched fists and tears in her eyes, she says, "I just don't know what to do!"

Since she's a friend, you probably want to contribute in some way. Isn't that what friendship is about? She did end with "I just don't know what to do!"

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg says, "It's often frustrating for someone needing empathy to have us assume that they want reassurance or 'fix-it' advice. Believing we have to 'fix' situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present."

To contribute the best gift you can to your friend, remember the components of NVC. Listen for what she observed. Pay attention to body clues and words that offer feelings. Even if she doesn't specifically say what she needs, see if you can find a need inside her words. But most importantly, listen, listen and listen.

When you follow the cues of the person speaking to emphatically connect to their feelings and needs, you'll be surprised how much more of a meaningful contribution your presence can make.

Mindful Practice for the Week

This week, be aware of the times you want to "fix the problem" or make someone "feel better." Take a deep breath and engage in empathic listening instead. Enjoy your week!