avoiding Non-empathic responses

These non-empathic responses are questions or statements we make with some frequency.  They can be useful -- for example, if we are trying to help solve a problem, then gathering data can be very helpful.  

However, if your goal is to hear what is important to another person so that you can have shared reality to build on and take action from, then it will likely be helpful to avoid these responses and instead focus on offering empathic responses.

  1. Distract or avoid: make a joke or somehow find a way to avoir their feelings:

    • “Well, that’s life. What’s for lunch

    • “Let’s go shopping”

  2. Judging, Criticizing: Ask questions in order to get more information to solve the problem or decide who to blame:

    • “You are so…”

    • “You always do this! When are you going to learn?”

  3. Gathering data: Ask questions to get more information in order to solve the problem:

    • “Has this happened before?”

    • “How long has this been happening?”

  4. One-upping: Tell them your own story which is much worse than theirs:

    • “That’s nothing. You should hear what happened to me! When i had this…”

  5. Story-Telling: Go on and on about yourself or your own situation or memories:

    • “I remember once, many years ago…”

  6. Analyzing: Be very clinical and analytical:

    • “I figured it out. That is what your problem is. You are too…”

  7. Giving Advice: Tell them your great idea about how to solve their problem:

    • “You know what you should really do is…”

  8. Don’t feel: Invalidate or negate the way they are feeling:

    • “Stop feeling so…”

    • “It can’t be that bad”

    • “You’re really making this much worse than it is”

  9. Ordering: Tell the person what to do:

    • “Well, don’t just sit there complaining about it, you need to get going and…”

  10. Educating: Persuade them with logic or lecture them.

    • “You know, thinking that way can really be bad for your health”

  11. Feeding the fire: Agree with them. Get them all wound up about their problem and how bad it is:

    • “Yeah, they are totally…”

    • That is absolutely…”

  12. Sympathizing: feel sorry for them:

    • “Oh, you poor thing…

    • “That’s really awful.”

    • “I totally know how you feel”