Have you ever been told that you need to work on your empathy skills? Or do you just seek to deepen this quality and your ability to communicate it?
If so these phrases will help you to demonstrate to others (and to yourself!) that you really care.
1) “Tell me more”
People love to be listened to. Really listened to.
Most of us are so focused on our own stories that we don’t give enough space to hear what others have to say. Or, conversely, while telling our own deep stories, we may feel that others might not be interested in the long version, so we cut it down, paper over the cracks, smile and say everything is fine, when it isn’t.
So if you give someone the space and permission to tell the whole story, there will be two benefits. Instantly the person will feel that you are genuinely interested in them, and perceive you to be kind and empathetic.
And then after you’ve heard more, you’ll be in a better position to truly understand them, and perhaps help them with their issue. This all helps you to walk in their shoes. And so you become more in tune, more empathetic, and can tangibly demonstrate kindness.
2) “What’s one thing that you would really like me to understand?”
This phrase is a bit like ‘tell me more’, but you are more likely to use it in a situation where there are hurt feelings or there’s a big topic to explore.
Imagine that your partner or colleague is really upset about something. Perhaps they are talking a lot, or maybe they are barely saying anything.
Either way, by using this phrase, you are giving them the opportunity to tell you which part of their message and experience is most important. That key thing that they want you to know and understand.
Yet again the act of saying this shows empathy and kindness. And the knowledge you receive by doing so, enables you to understand how to treat this person in a way that’s more aligned with what they’d like. Double win for empathy and kindness!
3) “What do you think?”
We all have our own opinions and beliefs about the way things should be. And sometimes we might forget that others feel differently. Or maybe we are aware of that, and we want to show others that we are interested in things from their point of view.
That’s where this phrase comes in handy. After talking about something meaningful – for example, values in a relationship – this sentence opens the floor up for the other person to respond, while feeling safe and valued.
This sentence also shows that you do not claim your way of thinking is the only way.
And there’s more. It also means that you are likely to learn something that will be valuable for your interpersonal skills. Another double win for kindness and empathy!
4) “I hear what you’re saying”
So the previous examples have been questions to help you to practice ‘active listening’. And this phrase also encourages active listening, by clearly demonstrating that you are paying attention to the meaning.
Sometimes there isn’t another question to be asked, it’s just a time for paying attention and being there for the other person. And this statement will help with that.
5) “I feel you”
Again, this is a statement to show that you are connecting emotionally with what is being said. Which is very important for empathy.
By saying ‘ I feel you’, you are signaling that you not only hear them but also feel the emotions they are expressing. It is a deep way of showing that you are on an emotional journey with another person.
6) “I’m here for you”
I’ve talked about asking questions with the possible outcome of helping the other person. This implies suggestions or feedback.
But sometimes all that someone wants is to know that the other person cares and is listening. They may not want you to be solution-focused.
Often, when we speak about our emotions we don’t need a ‘fix’, we simply need someone to hear us, to feel us, and to be there to support us, no matter what.
7) “Be your own best friend”
Unlike the other phrases which are about the quality of listening and demonstrating empathy, this one is an empathetic piece of advice that you can give people. Most of us give way more leeway and sympathy to friends than we allow ourselves.
If we ask the person to imagine that their problem or situation is their friend’s, then they will be practicing a type of empathy on themselves. And then they will likely be able to be kinder to themselves.
Imparting this type of caring wisdom to others will increase their perception of your kindness and empathy.
And that’s not all. Remember to apply this advice in your own life! You need to be kind to you, if you truly want to be kind to others!
8) “Everyone’s struggles are valid”
This is another wise gem, that you can apply to yourself, or share with others.
Have you ever felt down about something, and then realized that you feel guilty for feeling bad? Because you know that other people are dying in war or starving or all the many other terrible things that go on in life and the world?
If so, you should know that shaming yourself (or others!) isn’t helpful. While it’s good to maintain a sense of perspective in life and be grateful for what you have, suffering is suffering. When you or someone else feels really low, it’s good to validate that pain, to allow it to be expressed.
That’s because repressing pain and shaming leads to poor mental and physical health.
I’m not suggesting that we all go into victim mode about everything, but rather to realize that it’s ok to not feel ok. Emotional pain is intense regardless of the cause or situation. Allowing ourselves to feel it without guilt, can often be a powerful healing tool.
Kindness and empathy – the takeaway
You can show kindness and empathy with these phrases. They encompass listening and feeling some of what others are feeling. And then encouraging people to share more.
But both these skills start at home.
So make sure you’re applying the same love and care to yourself as others. Then you will shine as a kind and empathetic person, with the emotional capacity to care for others, just as you care for yourself – with kindness and love.
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