What do you do when a loved one comes to you upset about some problem? It's natural to feel for their pain and to ease it. Most people feel compelled to try to make the situation better in some way. Sometimes they offer suggestions about how to fix the problem — but this often leaves the other person feeling misunderstood or not cared about. Or, at other times, they dole out advice to not waste time worrying. But, this can leave the other person feeling that there's something wrong with you for being upset.
Another response (though generally less instinctive) is to try offering attention and concern — but no advice. When you listen carefully to someone's distress and are willing to experience it with them — not rushing them through it — you are letting them know that you care enough to be with them even in their pain. By itself, this can be very comforting.
Do your experiences fit with this? — either when you were the one who was upset or you were trying to help someone else who was upset?
If you would like to read more in detail about this topic in my The Art of Relationships blog, click here.
Dr. Becker-Phelps's discussions and her responses in those discussions are for general educational purposes only. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.
Sigh* Too true. Way too true! I've been told that it's a male trait to want to fix everything but I think both sexes could want to do that. It's certainly a terrible habit of mine. I keep wanting to help fix the problem! So I need to renew my resolve to listen and empathise without going into Solution Mode. Thanks for the reminder! If you write another article about this, more suggestions of things to say to show empathy would be nice. I work customer service and though empathy is big with us I still run out of things to say other than "I can understand how you would feel that way," or "mhm," or some such. My spouse gets picky about how I talk to her when she is upset so I have to get creative.
'Your focus determines your reality.' --QGJ
Thanks for your Reply!
it is hard though sometimes when they are just being entirely unconsious with their actions and they come to you feeling remorse of what they've done. rather tell them to forget about it and never do it again than emphatise with their careless act.
This just happened to me two days ago. My friends fianc? called me, she told me that my buddy had hit her again, and cussed her out, called her fat and lazy. (Which she is, unfortunately)
I listened to her patiently, like always, and told her I felt for her, but left it at that. After she vented some more, I told her that if worse comes to worst, she could come stay with me, till she sorted things out. She thanked me, then hung up, nothing happened, situation normal.
I did what you described without even thinking about it. Usually, I try to fix all situations. Men are hard wired that way. And try as I might, if I don't stop to think, I will try to fix it. The other night, I must have been tired, or just tired of hearing the same thing from her? I don't know?
I will have to be more contious of my wanting to help, and try to just listen, and be there for them!!! Give them my sympathy, and leave it at that, unless they ask for more. Perhaps I could practice this on these boards? Who know's, I may yet become a better man?
Thank you, Dr. Leslie, that was a wonderful, thought provoking topic!!!
We don't even get Google... I think WebMd is provided because some of the pharmacy techs need it, and because it's a basically harmless place to kill time if things are really slow. I save my long replies for breaks or really really slow times.
Who knows??? They have been going like this for over three years, now, so I don't really know? If I could hazard a guess, I would say yes? My buddy has lost it, he is into conspiracy theory's, she is in another world.
Every time she says he hit her, I never have seen any marks, no damage what so ever. I think she just wants the attention? She is an extreme alcoholic. He does smoke pot once in a while, but he only has a couple of beers when we B.B.Q., that's it. I suppose you could call her a "Drama Queen"? She seems to thrive on drama?
I guess they will marry, I wish they would just go their separate ways, and leave me out!!!
All too true, and I've told them that. She was here just last night. Came through my door drunk already. She had just baby sat her grand daughter, drunk. How do you do that? Its true, she drinks from the time she gets up, till she passes out. My buddy was right, she is drunk all the time, just sits there doing nothing. I feel sorry for him, he loves her, and she just wants away from him, she told me this last night.
Right now, she is under some delusion that, this old boyfriend wants her back. She was on the phone with him, while I sat here and had to listen to her slurring. She has had no contact with this guy for three years, and she tells him she loves him. And, that she wants him to come get her, and set up house together. Wow, she really is out there! I feel sorry for her, but it is up to her to want help. She most deffinately does not want help, she likes drinking. Her daughter, one she had lost to the state for her drinking befor, is now supposed to come live with her in a couple of weeks. I don't think the state would like it if they knew she was drinking again???
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