3 simple ways to express empathy in your next conversation

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

1. Show them that you notice they’re struggling

Acknowledge the other person’s unhappiness, and let them know you want to know more about what they’re going through. Start off with a simple “Hey, are you OK?” or “You look like you’re worried about something. What’s going on?” Then listen to what they have to say without trying to cheer them up, distract them or tell them what to do.

2. Ask them: “Can you help me understand?”

This deliberate phrasing sends the message that you’re not trying to fix their life but that you’re curious and you care about them. For example, if a friend complains that they’re feeling overlooked at work, ask “Can you help me understand why you feel like other people are getting more recognition than you?” or “Can you help me understand how feeling overlooked is affecting how you think about your job?”

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3. Share an observation

If it seems appropriate, tell your friend something you’ve observed about them. You might say to the person who feels overlooked at work: “You light up whenever you talk about how you ended up in this field. Do you still feel that way at work?” Reminding people about their positive attributes can be helpful when they’re down, but keep your observation short and keep the attention focused on them and their experiences, not on you. Regardless of what you say, let them know you’re firmly on their side and you’re there to listen and support them. Even if you do have advice that might be able to help them, keep it to yourself.

Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash

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