In order to be sympathetic, you need to be able to understand the other person's problem from that person's point of view. Even if it's difficult, you can still support your loved ones and friends by learning to express sympathy. If you want to know how, read on and apply the following steps. Don't hesitate and don't be negative about yourself so you can develop more genuine sympathy than you could ever imagine.
Part 1 of 3: Expressing Sympathy
Step 1. Let the other person share their feelings
Tell him that you are willing to listen to stories about his feelings and experiences dealing with problems. You don't need to come up with a solution because being willing to listen sympathetically can sometimes be enough.
Step 2. Show sympathy through body language
While listening, you can use body language as a way of showing concern and sympathy for the other person. Nod occasionally while making eye contact to show that you understand what he is saying. Try to get the two of you to talk face to face, not side by side.
- Don't do other activities and stay away from things that can distract the conversation. To avoid distractions, first turn off your phone, if you can.
- Show openness by not crossing your arms and legs. Let your arms show with your palms facing each other and relax. This kind of hand gesture will convey the message that you want to listen to the other person with all your heart.
- Lean your body slightly towards it. By leaning slightly, he will feel more comfortable talking to you.
- Nod your head when he speaks. Nodding and doing other supportive gestures will make the other person feel more comfortable talking to you.
- Imitate his body language. Imitating body language doesn't mean you have to do whatever he's doing, but you just need to maintain the same posture to make the atmosphere feel more supportive through your body language (e.g., look at him if he's looking at you, pointing your feet in the same direction).
Step 3. Listen to what he's talking about, don't respond right away
Usually, a person prefers to be heard when he is telling his feelings and thoughts. This is called support, even if you don't seem to be helping or doing anything for it. Often times, if you've given advice before being asked, he'll think you're just using his experience to talk about yourself.
- According to author Michael Rooni, "listening without offering solutions" is a way of providing security so that others can freely express and soothe their feelings. He will not feel pressured to take your advice and will not feel that you are trying to "take charge" of the problem or situation he is in.
- If you're in doubt, try asking, "I'd like to provide support if you want. Do you want me to provide a solution or do you just want to vent? Whatever your choice, I'm here to help."
- If you've been through the same thing, give him easy-to-work advice or explain how to deal with the problem. Deliver your advice as if you were sharing a personal experience, not commanding. For example: "I'm sorry you broke your leg. I can still remember how upset I was when I broke my ankle a few years ago. Would it help if I told you how I dealt with the problem at the time?"
- Make sure you're not dictating to do certain actions. If you want to give advice and he's willing to listen, ask questions to find out, such as "How about _____?" or "Would it help if _____?" By asking questions like this, you acknowledge this person's role in making his or her own decisions. Also, this question is less commanding than "If I were you, I would ______".
Step 4. Make physical contact in an appropriate manner
Physical contact can provide a sense of comfort, as long as it fits the context of your relationship. To show sympathy, you can give him a hug, if necessary. However, if this doesn't make you both feel comfortable, simply touch his hand or shoulder.
You should also be able to see if this person wants to be hugged or not, even though this method is considered normal in everyday life. Pay close attention to his body language to see if he wants to be hugged. You can also ask, "Would a hug make you feel better?"
Step 5. Offer to help with daily chores
Even if he seems to be able to do his job well, you can offer to help. Try offering to help deliver food or buy food at a restaurant. Ask if you can pick up the kids from school, water the lawn, or help out in some other way.
- When offering help, determine what day and time you can help, don't ask him to decide. That way, he doesn't have to decide or think much under stressful conditions.
- Ask before you offer food. People who have recently experienced grief may dislike certain foods. Try asking what food he likes.
Step 6. Provide spiritual support
If you both share the same beliefs, provide spiritual support to build closeness with him. You can invite him to pray or join worship together.
Don't talk about your religious views when expressing sympathy, if you don't share the same beliefs
Part 2 of 3: Preventing Common Mistakes
Step 1. Don't say you know or understand what he's going through
Even if you have experienced the same problem, everyone will deal with the problem in a different way. You can share how you're feeling at that moment or offer helpful advice, but know that his problem may not necessarily be the same as yours.
- You could say, "I can imagine how hard it must have been for you to accept this. I was also very sad when my dog died."
- What's more, never say that your problem is more serious (even if this is how you feel). Position yourself as a helper for him.
Step 2. Don't belittle or contradict her feelings
Listen carefully to the problems he faces and provide support for the efforts he has made. Admit that he's in trouble and don't say that what he's telling isn't worth paying attention to.
- Don't belittle or contradict your friend's experience unintentionally. For example, say you're comforting a friend who has just lost their beloved pet by saying, "I'm sorry you lost your dog. At least, it would be even worse if you lost a family member." By saying this, you are actually confronting your friend's grief over the loss of their pet, even if you didn't mean it this way. Your friend may no longer want to share his feelings with you. In addition, he may feel embarrassed because of his own feelings.
- Another example of being defiant is giving the suggestion, "Don't feel that way." For example, there is your friend who is having problems with his physical condition because he has just recovered from illness and he feels that his appearance is not attractive anymore. You won't be able to help him by saying, "Don't think like that! You still look great." You're just saying he's "guilty" or "bad" for feeling this way. You can justify how he feels without having to challenge the underlying ideas. For example: "I hear you find you look unattractive. I'm sorry to hear about your sadness. This must be really upsetting you. If that helps, I think you still look great."
- It's the same if you say, "at least it's not getting any worse." This can be interpreted as ignoring the problems your friend is having and as a warning about other possible problems in his life.
Step 3. Don't make statements about personal beliefs that differ from those of your friend
Expressing different personal beliefs will make the other person feel uncomfortable or even feel attacked. He will feel unappreciated or judged. The best way to be sympathetic is to focus on the person you're interacting with and try to do things to help them.
For example, maybe you strongly believe in life after death, but not everyone believes the same. To you, it might be okay to say, "At least the person you love is in a better place right now," but he or she may not be able to accept what you're saying
Step 4. Don't force someone to do your proposed solution
It's natural to make suggestions that you think can help others, but don't push yourself too hard. To you, this solution is obviously very easy to do, but others may not necessarily agree.
After you make a suggestion, leave it alone. You can discuss this proposal again if there is new information. For example, "I know you don't want to take painkillers, but I heard there are safer drugs with less risk. Do you need the name of the medication so you can find out more?" If he refuses, that's okay
Step 5. Stay calm and be nice
Maybe you think this person has only a small problem or not as big as your problem. It could also be that you feel jealous because other people's problems seem so small. However, this is not the right time to say it and you probably never will. It would be better if you said goodbye and walked away, instead of just expressing your annoyance.
Step 6. Don't use violence or be indifferent
There are people who think "violent love" is appropriate therapy, but this is actually the opposite of being sympathetic. Someone who is grieving or sad for a long time may experience depression. Therefore, he should consult a doctor or therapist. You won't be able to help him by simply "strengthening" or saying "forget it."
Step 7. Don't insult
This is obvious, of course, but when you're stressed, you can lose control of your emotions. If you realize you're arguing, insulting, or criticizing this person, walk away from them and apologize, when you've calmed down again.
Don't make someone in need of sympathy the subject of an insulting joke. He will feel offended and very hurt
Part 3 of 3: Using Words of Wisdom
Step 1. Acknowledge the incident or problem
If you hear from someone else that someone is having a problem, use sentences that can indicate that you want to approach the person who needs sympathy. If he wants to start a conversation, respond by acknowledging his feelings.
- "I'm sorry to hear this news."
- "I heard you were having a hard time."
- "It must be very painful."
Step 2. Ask how he dealt with his problems
There are people who deal with stress by doing more to keep them busy. They also never want to stop working so as not to think about problems that disturb their emotions. While looking into his eyes, ask questions in words that make him understand that you're asking how he feels, not about his daily activities:
- "How do you feel?"
- "How do you deal with this problem?"
Step 3. Provide support
Show that you are ready to support him. You can also provide support by mentioning his friends and family to remind him that there are always people he can rely on:
- "I always remember you."
- "I'm here to help when you need me."
- "I'll see you again this week to help you _____."
- Don't say very mundane things like "Just tell me if there's anything I can help you with." This way, he will try to think of something he can't do at the moment so you can help him.
Step 4. Let him know that emotions are normal
Some people have difficulty expressing emotions or feel they are experiencing the "wrong" emotions. Use the following sentences to let them know that their experience was fine:
- "It's okay if you want to cry".
- "I can accept whatever you want to do right now".
- "Guilt is normal." (or anger, or any emotion expressed by it)
- If you're not used to expressing your emotions or sympathy to your loved one, you can start giving it a try. In this way, you can show that you are trying hard to sympathize with him.
- Empathy and sympathy are two different things. When you sympathize, you simply show concern and concern for the other person's suffering, but you don't need to share it. If you want empathy, you must be able to imagine yourself in someone else's situation or "put yourself in someone else's shoes." Try to imagine what it would be like to experience this person's emotions so you can understand how he or she is feeling. Empathy isn't "better" than sympathy and vice versa, but it's good to know the difference.