Today's Kindness #209: November 4, 2022
👂🏼Lend An Ear👂🏼
Sometimes what people need most is the caring presence of a friend. Spend time listening to a friend who needs support.
To truly succeed in supporting that friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker who needs and wants to be heard, remember that your primary goal is to listen. You are not expected, nor should you necessarily offer, to solve the problem. A key strategy to providing excellent support is to focus on offering empathy and compassion, not sympathy. What is the difference between sympathy, empathy, and compassion? See below for an example within the social media world.
Sympathy (pity) - is distant. On Facebook someone posts about a sad event that they have experienced. Your comment with your shared sorrow ("thoughts and prayers"). While it's meaningful and certainly heartfelt, it is done at arm's length.
Empathy - is closer. Continuing with the Facebook example, you choose to be vulnerable by reaching out directly via a private message or text, recognizing and acknowledging their sorrow in a more one-on-one manner.
Compassion - is "where the good stuff happens." You take action by calling, sending a gift, or stopping by. With compassion, you are saying "I hear you and see you and want to give my time to be here for you."
You don't need formal training to do this! It isn't therapy and shouldn't be treated that way. Being an empathetic listener isn't problem-solving. Giving someone the gift of being seen and heard is a comfort and can lead the way to other sources of support for those in need. Try it out with those around you and see what a difference you can make in their day!
"Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort."
~ Roy T. Bennett