Throwing A Lifeline To Other Boats In The Storm 

We are all in the same storm. Although we’re in different boats we are all in the same storm. Pandemic, coronavirus, Covid-19, lockdown, recession – whichever label you give it, everyone has their own story. And we’re consistently told empathy’s what’s needed right now.

So, what is empathy? It’s probably easier to feel it rather than to describe it. So here goes:

Seeing things from other people’s point of view. Not passing judgement. Walking in another person’s moccasins.

Let’s go a little deeper. Empathy requires attitude as well as skill. Empathy requires an ability to be present with the person you are listening to. Total concentration is needed, requiring an elimination of each of those physical and mental barriers that can get in the way e.g. what’s just gone on, what you have to do next. What’s going on right now is what matters. A question to ask yourself is:

‘Are you listening to understand or are you just listening to respond?’

Empathy is more than listening. Of course, understanding the issue is key. But the way you respond really makes the difference. Empathy requires us not to be judgemental. Instead, empathy requires us to acknowledge how the other person is feeling – and to connect with those feelings and saying so. For example:

‘My pet has just died.’
‘Oh dear. That’s so sad to hear. I am not sure what to say right now.’

Showing empathy is not about solving problems. It’s about being with people. Connecting with them. Letting them know they are not alone.

Avoid sugar coating or silver lining too. Saying phrases such ‘at least you have’ does not help. People don’t want sympathy. Instead, they are needing empathy. For example:

‘My pet has just died’.
‘At least you had lots of years with your dog’.


‘My dog has just died’.
‘At least you still have your cat’.

Responding in this way fails to acknowledge the other person’s feelings. As said earlier, the empathetic response is the one that connects, such as:

‘My pet has just died.’
‘Oh dear. That’s so sad to hear. I am not sure what to say right now.’

So, whichever type of boat you are in, empathy is really what is needed right now. With home-working, lockdowns, tiered approaches and all the inevitable economic challenges ahead it’s empathy rather than sympathy (with or without tea) that’s needed. Everyone has their own Covid-19 story. Please listen and empathise to connect with them.

Author Bio: Paul Beesley, Director & Senior Consultant, Beyond Theory: Business training & coaching

Photo Credit: Wang John on Unsplash

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