Someone close to me is feeling in a bad way. They’re suffering from a dark brew of disappointment, sadness, and anxiety. I know because they told me. We sat at a table over a cup of coffee and the coffee went down my throat like battery acid when I looked into their eyes and saw the pain radiating out.
It was hard to sit there and hear what they were going through. Of course I was uncomfortable. I wanted to soothe them. I wanted to tell them everything would be all right. I wanted to give them advice about what they needed to do or think or feel to make their situation more tolerable.
I did none of those. I resisted offering platitudes, I held back from offering positive words. Instead, I listened, I acknowledged their pain, I put myself in their shoes and practiced my art of empathy.
I’ve learned that people don’t want to be cheered up. They want to be seen, acknowledged. This short, animated video offers a trove of wisdom on this topic, where psychotherapist Megan Devine says:
“Acknowledgement makes things better, even when they can’t be made right.”