what to do when you fail at empathy

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

You know those people who never seem to mind or notice what others think of them?

Well, that's never been me.

Once upon a time, I was someone who thought the worst thing you could do was to be disapproved of or to upset someone.

So you can imagine my angst as I read these words, in response to a reply I had written to a fellow student on my course:

'Jacqui, I felt uncomfortable when I read your words, and I don't appreciate this kind of comment'.

Uh-ho. Shame-shit-storm alert. Heart pounding. Time slows down. I'm holding my breath.

Here we were, learning about empathy, connection, and trust. And here's me, having failed at that.

I'm such an idiot.

I got it wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong GOT IT WRONG.

What's a girl to do, mid shame-storm?

Ok. Type reply. Make sure he knows he interpreted my message incorrectly. Put him right. Defend myself. TAKE HIM DOWN.

Typed it. Felt bad. Deleted it.

Stomped around the house, huffing and puffing. Said 'nothing!' in a bright, breezy voice when hubby asked what was wrong. Felt like my insides were coming off. Totally disengaged my brain.

Pause. Wait a moment. Pay Attention.

I'm having a shame attack. Name it. Shame shame shame.

Reach out. Tell my story to someone who has earned the right to hear it. A colleague I trust.

Her reply was like a cooling balm on my burning shame-iness.

"Bravo for reaching out. You're in the arena. I'm here. What do you need?".

Shame can't survive in the warm embrace of empathy, of being seen, and knowing we're not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Circle back. Put this right.

New reply typed, from a wholehearted, open, honest place. Connection made with original poster. We see each other. This is the work.

 

Over to you.

What's your experience? What happens for you when you fail?  What works for you when someone is trying to understand how you feel?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

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