I had a brief moment of empathy the other day; that reminded me what practicing empathy really means. It means changing our conversations so that the other person has a chance to express their feelings, and then listening to what they say, once they express them.
I was talking the other day about having second thoughts before committing a hurtful act. Well I think this is also true for moments where you *could* say the wrong thing in a conversation, and you don't. When I pull myself back - and listen instead of talking.
A friend of mine's husband recently had knee surgery. I was catching up on other things, when talk turned to his recent surgery.
"Hey, your husband just had surgery, right? How are you both holding up?"
"Pretty well, actually. It was on his right knee, so I'm driving him around everywhere."
[Here I paused. I thought several times about some things to say, and each time I pulled it back. Things like "Wow, that really sucks." - I didn't say that because then I'd be telling her how she felt about driving him around. "That must be really hard for you," again, not a good idea, since I'm telling her how to feel. I decided to go with 'funny' and said,
"Playing chauffeur, huh?"
[Again, a pause. I didn't get any sense of how she felt about this, one way or the other. I've had several people I know go through knee surgery, so I'm aware that many people had different experiences post-surgery. So I decided to go with a passive question.]
"I can't imagine what it's like, to have to take care of someone like that all the time."
She replied with, "Well, you would know, right? Because I've heard it's kind of...like parenting."
I said, "Except, without the diaper changes I hope."
Result? A shared laugh. Much better than a conversation spent complaining about how horrible life's little challenges can be.
Have you tried to 'change your conversation' lately?
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