A Sincere display of Empathy can go a long way to winning friends and influencing people.
“You don’t know what I have been through.”
“You can’t possibly understand.”
“This is so different than anything anyone has ever experienced.”
“No one can help me.”
These are very common statements made by people going through difficult or tough moments in their lives.
We have all had friends or family that have been through tough times and often, the harder we try to understand them and reach out, the greater the gap between us and them.
In some instances, maybe it was you who was saying these statements, or maybe, it is you who is saying them now.
It can be soo hard to empathize with someone who is not clearly communicating what they feel or what they want. It is also very hard to connect with someone going through a very unique experience to them, because, it is.
They are right when they say that we don’t know what they are going through. They are also right when they say we can’t possibly understand. They are even more right when they say that this is so different than anything anyone has ever been through.
The reason I agree with what they are saying is because the more you try to disprove what they are saying, the farther they push away. The key is to “PACE” their experience going forward.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “PACE”
Pacing an experience means connecting with them on the emotional ebb and flow that they are going through.
It means listening and feeling deeply and letting them feel heard and felt.
Pacing is a softer approach that doesn’t require you to know the answers or what to say, it simply means having:
P — Patience to hold back your immediate words or presuppositions and just observe.
A — Awareness of your energy and theirs. Awareness to the fact that what you may have gone through is not what they are going through. Awareness to where they specifically are in their process.
C — Create the space for emotions to expand. Remain aware of the space between you and them. Maybe you need to come closer or maybe you need to step a bit farther back.
E — Empathize by reminding them you will continue to walk with them going forward. That you are there for them if they need a hug or a shoulder or just someone to call. Let them know that they are loved and appreciated.
The hardest thing for anyone to do in these moments is to offer help in a differently than the way most people have been helped. Because the biggest breakthrough is not in giving them what you think they want or what they think they want. The pain, grief, devastation, anxiety or stress they are currently feeling is unique to them and unique to that experience.
What is not unique however, is the process they are going through and that is what we must become aware of by asking ourselves one very simple question, “where are they in the process?”
The biggest breakthrough is in ASKING them what they need or want from you.
The help that is often the most impactful is in giving them what they “NEED” — a common human feeling of being supported and not being alone. Not just with someone who has been through something very similar to what they are going through or have been through. Rather, it is often supporting them in the journey going forward.
Most help that people offer is out of context and it was what they went through. The goal of a personal story that maybe similar to someone else’s is not simply to tell a story and say, “if I can get over it, so can you” (even though this does occasionally help). The deepest connecting point of a story, is for them to see themselves in it. For them to connect with it because it paces their experience. Not simply to hear your story and how it can be similar to theirs, instead to hear your story and remind them of the process, not just the emotions.
Stories are meant to create the imagery so that others can see themselves in it without you forcing what you learned into their minds and hearts. Stories allow it to seep in slowly and effectively.
Great stories pace the emotional and physical experience we are going through or can relate to.