Maybe you think you are saying all the right things to your partner to tell them that you understand how they’re feeling. But perhaps you’re not. One way to get a true sense of whether or not you are showing empathy is to see if you get the nod. When you react to your partner’s pain, do they nod in response to your words? Or do they keep trying to express how they’re feeling? Worse still, do they roll their eyes or simply shut down? When we look for this simple non-verbal cue, we can measure how well we’re doing in the empathy stakes pretty quickly.
Looking at some examples, it’s fairly easy to see which statements would get the nod.
Your partner explains that they are getting really flustered with some technological issue. You respond by saying:
a) Here, let me do it.
b) Calm down. You’re getting stressed over nothing.
c) It’s so frustrating when that happens, isn’t it?
Your partner states that they’re embarrassed by the idea of people bringing gifts to their birthday party. You respond by saying:
a) Don’t be ridiculous. They want to give you something.
b) So tell them not to.
c) I know you don’t want people to make a fuss and you just want your friends to celebrate with you.
Your partner looks exhausted but is still rushing around doing chores. You respond by saying:
a) I don’t know why you don’t just sit down and relax.
b) I said I would do that.
c) You look absolutely shattered but you obviously still want things done.
So the next time your partner, child, friend or colleague expresses any type of emotional pain, stop and think what you can say to get the nod. Once you see the sign that you’ve nailed your response, whatever you say next will be far better received and you will be more likely to avoid an argument.