When a loved one is facing a difficulty, we desperately want to make it better. Someone’s hurting? We want to soothe the pain. A friend is frustrated because their child on the spectrum is struggling in therapy? A loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis? We want to ask a million questions and find that silver lining so we can say, “At least he’s been in therapy since a young age,” or “At least she can say a couple words,” or “At least the doctors caught it.” But while telling someone to look on the bright side may seem like the best course of action, trying to fix his/her problem yourself can actually cause distance.
In the following animation, Dr. Brené Brown discusses the differences between empathy and sympathy and urges us to connect with one another — and that can be as simple as acknowledging that you don’t know what to say. “Empathy is a choice,” Dr. Brown says, “and it’s a vulnerable choice, because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”
Take a look at this video to see how you can connect with someone going through a difficult time.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.