Sunday, 8 November 2009

Empathy skills for cabbages...

It's been a long week - filled with high and low moments... I've been thinking over this post since Monday. Today I'm making time to post it!

It's okay not to know what to say. 'Sorry to hear that' might not feel like a good thing to say, but at least you are acknowledging that there is an issue.

Sometimes it really is better to say nothing - words however well meant, can cause offence when someone isn't ready to hear them. A smile or a touch (or a hug virtual or otherwise) can say 'I'm thinking about you'.

Acknowledge that you can't possibly understand how the other person is feeling, because we can't live in someone else's head. Do, however, make sure that you try to understand that the person you are dealing with may be hurting, angry or upset, and therefore may not be entirely rational.

Realise that grief isn't something that is short term, and even when someone has a good day it doesn't mean that they are 'over it'. It will probably come back at some inappropriate moment.

If the person you are talking to wants to talk, listen to them. They want to talk, they probably don't need to hear your opinion, or what you would do in that situation.

Equally, if that person, that yesterday wanted to talk, doesn't today, accept that as their decision. Sometimes it is too hard to talk, sometimes it's better to not think about the things that cause the pain.

Let them know that you think they are doing okay. When you are living in pain (for whatever reason) it can be lonely. It's difficult to think straight, and sometimes self-belief and self-confidence go AWOL. Let them know that they are doing okay, because they might not know that.

Understand that you might not be the person they need to talk to at that time. Don't take it personally, just let them know that you are there, ready and waiting if they do need to talk to you at some other time.

Let them know that you care, in small ways or in big ways - it doesn't matter. But letting someone know that you care, that they matter is important for the other person.

I'm sure that there is more that I ought to add... in fact... if you have an empathy skill that you'd like to share, why don't you add it in the comments, for no other reason, but that you can.