It is unfair to expect others to meet us where we are & show us empathy if they have never lived through our personal & unique experiences. It must be damn near impossible if the person we crave empathy from the very most was raised with little to no empathy.
Can empathy be learned? It can be learned behavior if the desire to do so is there & that desire is strong enough. I’ve seen my husband’s empathy capability & capacity grow. Patience is key.
We can only do our personal best & it seems a bit unfair to get mad at our loved ones for their lack of empathy. They don’t know how to be empathetic & need to be taught how to show empathy carefully & effectively. How can we punish our loved ones or blame them or get mad at them if they simply can’t help it?
True empathy is individual & unique to each & every person. Empathy looks & sounds different for every person. & if we care, we find out how best to show empathy & compassion to our loved ones through patience, thoughtfulness, care, & love.
We are just doing the very best we can to feel our own way through life. We’re doing our best, but by design we’re flawed & imperfect & we make a zillion & one mistakes before we get it right. We grow & learn & get better & become better with each step in the right & wrong direction.
Being empathetic means meeting people where they are. I recently realized that this also means we are empathetic & understanding towards those that struggle with empathy.
Empathy strugglers can’t give it to others because we can’t give away what we do not have for our selves. If we struggle with self-love, for instance, we struggle fully loving others. & when we learn to completely embrace & love ourselves, we are better equipped to fully embrace & love others.
By design, empathy strugglers have a hard time because, in some cases, their parents did not teach them such a skill. How can they pass along empathy, to their offspring, if it was not taught to them in the first place?
Tell people how they can be compassionate & empathetic towards you by asking:
1.) What does empathy look like for YOU?
2.) What does empathy sound like for YOU?
3.) What does empathy feel like for YOU?
We have to find out what works, individually, & do our best to effectively accommodate loved ones to build bridges & connections in our beloved relationships. Otherwise, walls will be put into place & getting over walls is really hard work. Connection, we are hard-wired for connection. We need it to survive & to live our happiest & absolute best lives.
We teach people how to treat us, so we shall teach people how to show empathy through honest conversations that may feel uncomfortable & sticky, but are well worth it in the end. Growth starts where your discomfort begins.
We have the awesome opportunity & ability to use our precious time to inform our family members what we need from them in order to be seen and to feel best supported & loved. Be specific & forth-coming & patient & kind, as this is a process & it is one that is ever-changing. There will be bumps in the road. There is no arrival. It’s hard work. & you get what you put in.
Empathy is not a birthright, it is learned or not learned, modeled or not modeled. & if it was not a part of your upbringing, how can we expect individuals to automatically know how to be empathetic towards us? Empathy is a craft & it takes practice & it varies from person to person. Some need more & some need less & some need none. It’s a work in progress.
Our situations & life circumstances help us to be more empathetic towards others. If we have not experienced certain losses or illnesses, it is more difficult to be empathetic towards those that have experienced those losses & illnesses.
I’ve seen poverty & lived in it for 3 months (Dominican Republic & Haiti). It humbles you unlike any other experience in the whole world. But I’ve been expecting my husband to understand poverty & how it must feel to live without basic necessities. That’s an unfair expectation, because he has never been homeless or been to an impoverished country.
Was raised by a single mom, so I can sit with single moms & get where they are coming from. I have a special place in my heart for them. If you were raised by two parents that are still together, it will be harder for you to relate.
We’ve miscarried a child, so we can understand the tragedy of those feelings. It is a pain that is so deep, it is unexplainable.
I suffer from anxiety, so I understand what it is like to stress over things that anti anxiety suffers don’t stress over. I’ve been expecting my husband to get it, but he does not have anxiety, so how in the world would he understand how I feel? He tries and so can you. He’s learning & I have to be patient while he learns, as he will most likely spend his whole life trying to wrap his mind around why I worry over silly things that are never going to actually take place.
I can imagine what it must be like for my beloved sister-in-law when she lost her beloved dog to cancer, yesterday. It happened suddenly & abruptly. It’s not fair. It’s tragic and losing a pet is the same as losing a loved one.
I have a 10-year-old cat that was gifted to me by my very dear friend, Julie, immediately following a devastating, heartbreaking, & unexpected break up after 5 years. We were supposed to get married & so my world got flipped upside down & inside out. So, Julie bought me my all-time favorite black cat, Black Jack. He is my world & has been there through huge & pivotal moments of my life & if I were to lose him, today, it would take my breath away & break my heart & I’d feel so sad. I’d miss Jack’s purr as his soothing vibrational purr against my leg, nightly, brings my stress level down. Pets are loved ones & when one passes, it is as if a part of us has been ripped out.
Brian does not care about pets & does not particularly love animals, so it would not affect him the same way as it would affect me. & it would be unfair for me to expect him to react as I would. We’re different.
When we do not know how to sit with someone who needs us, we can ask:
1.) What can I do to support you in this moment?
2.) What can I do to make things easier for you?
3.) What do you need from me to feel better?
Here are a handful of examples & non-examples:
After a loved one loses their beloved dog to cancer:
😦 “but you have 2 healthy kids.”
🙂 “I’m incredibly sorry. What can I do to be of support right now?”
After losing a loved one:
😦 “We all live & die. It’s the cycle of life. deal with it.”
🙂 “I’m so sorry. Must be so hard for you right now. May I call you?”
After a devastating miscarriage or losing a child:
😦 “There must have been a reason God took care of it.”
😦 “You’re young, there’s time to try again.”
😦 “You’ll get pregnant again.”
😦 “Everything happens for a reason.”
🙂 “Holy moly, my heart aches for you. May I pray for you?”
🙂 “May I come give you a hug?”
🙂 “How can I help?”
After getting an all clear mammogram. post breast cancer:
😦 “You are cancer free, so what are you worried about, now?”
🙂 “I am glad to hear you are cancer free. I will continue to pray for a cancer free status.”
When we love people, we find out how to best support them & do our best to meet them where they are. & we find this out by asking them:
- What can I do to show I care?
- When can we talk on the phone, weekly, @ a time that works for me & you?
- What words would be best to use in order to help you best cope?
- Do you want me to listen to you right now OR do you want my advice?
- How can I help our relationship grow stronger?