Imagine the situation: a friend has come to you with a problem – they’ve just broken up with their long-term partner, they’re struggling to find a job, they haven’t done very well in some exams – how do you respond? Do you ask them about it or say ‘oh don’t worry about it, it’ll be okay’. If you reply with anything similar to the latter, then your empathetic skills could do with some work.
We’re all so busy and stressed in our own lives that sometimes it can be difficult to help others with theirs. But we’ve all been in a situation where we just need to talk to someone about a problem and gain a different perspective. Or simply to know that we aren’t alone. Below are some tips that can help your empathy skills:
Put yourself in their shoes
It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, but how many of us actually follow through with this life lesson? What might seem like a small or insignificant problem to us, could be monumental to someone else – and that’s okay. Saying, ‘you’re overreacting’ or ‘oh, it’s no big deal just…’ can undercut someone’s feelings and make them feel inadequate. Putting yourself in their shoes allows you to try and see things from their perspective and understand why they feel the way they do.
Show care, concern and support
We all know that going to someone with a problem is a big, brave step, especially if it’s extremely personal. We’re at our most vulnerable and need to be met with care. This can be in the form of meeting them in person, having a phone call or simply asking ‘How are you feeling?’. Letting them know that you are always there for them, no matter the outcome, can create a big sigh of relief on their side and make them feel more confident when going forward with the issue.
I think we can all agree that we felt personally attacked when Sex and The City’s Stanford said:
‘We all judge. That’s our hobby. Some people do arts and crafts. We judge’.
Judgement may be an easy answer to situations, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Yes, it’s easier said than done to not judge but giving your friend the benefit of the doubt will not only make them feel better but also you. Who doesn’t love a win-win situation?
Don’t skip to the end of the conversation
Imagine spilling your heart out to someone for them to reply with a one line answer. You’d be more upset than when you started. The same goes for your friend telling you their issues for you to simply say, ‘I’m sure it will all work out’. Ask them questions, acknowledge their feelings and ask if there is anything you can do to help. If you were in their situation, you’d be grateful for a similar response.