By Kate Bennett, PsyD
More often than not, people react to each other’s problems with well-intentioned but poorly-timed responses. From sympathy (“Oh, you poor thing”) to problem-solving (“You should try…”), people often miss a critical aspect of human connection: Empathy. In a society that values fast-paced and solution-focused lives, it is common to forget to slow down and listen, let alone feel. Sometimes, individuals’ own insecurities make empathetic responses intolerable. Brene Brown’s video on empathy provides a wonderful glimpse into the powerful human skill.
Think about the last time you shared a problem with a trusted individual. How did that person respond? Was the response congruent with your needs at the time? It is important to remember that you can share your preferences to help guide a support person. Starting with “I just need someone to listen” or “I really need some help figuring this out” will clue your confidant into your needs in that moment. Likewise, next time somebody reaches out to you for support, ask how you can help versus jump to your natural response. While uncomfortable and vulnerable at first, learning to share and receive empathy is an invaluable experience that every human is worthy of.