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Often times when someone comes to us to vent or seek advice, we want to show them we care, but we may actually be doing the opposite. Neal Phalora, The Brain Warrior, has some examples of what you might typically say and what would be the more empathetic version.

Sometimes our need to be right or have certainty gets in the way of showing empathy. This happens both personally and professionally.  

For example, someone says, “I can’t keep up with bills, I’m worried about work and I’m exhausted.” Some typical responses listed below are often said with the best of intentions but we can unknowingly create distance and disconnection. 

Here are four examples of empathy blockers and how you can correct them:

1. One-upping

Empathy Blocker: “I had a huge unexpected bill too, and I’m exhausted.”

Empathy: “I get it,” said authentically, creates connection.

2. Advising/Fixing

Empathy Blockers:

“Maybe you should look for another job.”

“Maybe you should eat better so you have more energy.”

“Maybe you should…”

Empathy: “I hear you, said with sincerity, lets a person be heard.”

3. Educating/Analyzing

Empathy Blockers:

“There’s a great book on money you should read!”

“You know, I notice you have said this a lot over the years.”

Empathy:  “Tell me more,” said with sincerity, shows you’re really interested.”

4. Consoling/Discounting

Empathy Blockers:

“That’s too bad, but I’m sure it will get better.”

“Just be glad that you have a job?”

Empathy: “This is tough and there’s no easy advice, and I’m thankful you told me.” When someone is in a difficult place, this may be all you have to say.

The goal with empathy is being interested rather than being interesting.

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