Want To Win More Friends And Influence People? Try This...

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.

 

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

 

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.


You might be asking yourself right about now, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MAKING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE?!?!

 

Keep reading and you will soon find out…but here’s a hint: instant friend connections are magical but rare. True friendship is when we are able to connect with others over the long term. When they feel understood, mentally and emotionally.

 

Everyone, I mean everyone, is going through a difficult time or a moment or phase of transition in their life. If you can learn to sense for that and connect with it. To PACE their experience and empathize, you will have achieved the most coveted piece of making friends and influencing people — TO BE TRUSTED.

 

Empathy is the key element to helping someone through a difficult moment or period of their life. Empathy accompanied by compassion, understanding, selflessness, love and patience are keys to trust.

 

The Merrium Webster definition of Empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

 

It is understanding, awareness, sensitivity and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another of either their past or present

 

I simply want to reiterate here that empathy is understanding, awareness and sensitivity.

 

Before I get into what I believe REAL EMPATHY is versus the textbook definition, let me also mention empathies close cousin, SYMPATHY.

 

Sympathy is defined as:

the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another; feeling of loyalty tendency to favor or support; unity or harmony in action or effect

 

Sympathy is a capacity to share feelings or interests, loyalty, support and unity or harmony.

 

I want to offer a new way of thinking about helping or supporting someone in need, someone who is hurting or someone whom you want to connect with them. Offer you a new way that synthesizes and integrates EMPATHY and SYMPATHY.

 

It is often said by others that if we have not walked a day in their shoes, then we cannot possibly understand, and although this may be an absolutely correct statement, it is also lacking a certain perspective.

 

For example, if you broke up with your significant other and it was absolutely heart breaking, then why do you believe that the only ones who can help you are those who have had a heart breaking break up.

 

Also, by this statement, “you don’t know what it’s like,” is also similar to wishing that they do go through a heart break in order to relate to you.

 

Connection is something that must be fostered and created by both the receiver and the one offering support, understanding and love.

 

Other people who have lost a significant other may say the same thing, “you don’t know what it’s like.” This can also be seen as wishing this upon anyone else so that they may “understand you.”

 

Why would you want someone else to be going through what you are currently going through in order for you to feel fully understood?

 

An alternative definition of Empathy is taken from its current definition and its close cousin, Sympathy.

 

When we OFFER understanding and love, what we are saying is, “I don’t know exactly what you are feeling or what it is like, but I am aware of where you are in the process of feeling, grieving, thinking, and sensing.”

 

The NEW DEFINITION OF EMPATHY is:

An offering of understanding and sensitivity to harmoniously share in and relate to the process of another.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Empathy therefore is a lot like dancing. There must be harmony and in sync. You don’t need to know what they just danced to or what turn pattern they just performed, what’s most important is that you are in sync with the song.

 

You can now dance together because you are guided by a common rhythm although your moves and style may be different, you both are hearing the rhythm the same way.

 

We try so hard to relate and share in their specific emotions when those going through a difficult time are just trying to understand it all themselves.

 

A new approach to EMPATHY is offered in a way that lets them know they are SUPPORTED on their journey going forward.

 

What this new perspective or approach really says is, “I may not know exactly what you have been through or are experiencing, but what I do want to let you know and feel, is that I am here with you going forward, you are not alone and please sense my emotional and physical support as you move through this process or experience.”

 

This new approach does not require you to have “walked in their shoes” as most people would say it or have it. It does not require you to have experienced similar trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, grief or devastation.

 

It doesn’t require you to have shared the same successes or achievements, but it definitely asks that you align with where you both want to go and how you can support each other along the way.

 

You don’t have to have walked their exact path up to this point. However, you must be willing to walk with them going forward.

 

Its saying, “you keep your shoes, I’ll keep mine and lets walk together on this shared journey.”

 

It is a basic human desire for instant gratification — to want to say the quick and easy way of connecting, “yes, me to. I have also been through that.”

 

In contrast, DEEP and REAL EMPATHY requires PATIENCE.

 

The patience to walk a mile with someone, to extend a hand and help them rise up and continue on the journey with them, to continue expressing sympathy, compassion and empathy.

 

The patience to build a friendship based on a common goal in the future. This requires asking new questions than simply looking to relate our pasts.

 

This new approach requires patience as someone learns to express fuller emotions, learns to walk again, learns to think again and learns to feel again. This process requires the support of those willing to endure and empathize with another versus the instant gratification of offering an answer or a personal story that only seems to offer basic understanding.

 

EMPATHY, COMPASSION and SYMPATHY ARE SHARED JOURNEYS, they are not final states nor do they ever end.

 

If you want to establish more meaningful levels of connection with someone, then go deeper and farther with them. Let them know you are there with them for the long term and that you will be patient.

 

Let them know that you will walk with them going forward, side by side and you will support them throughout the different phases of their growth as they also learn and grow to support yours.

 

When we feel supported — when we feel camaraderie — when we feel understood in our process, we begin to open up and the impossible and permanent, begin to become possible and energizing as new possibility brings with it new life.

 

Making friends and influencing people is a lot more about where you want to go together and sharing that journey, than where you have been and what you have been through.