Whitepapers & Guides

Supportive/Empathic Communication Strategies

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Supportive/Empathic Communication Strategies Below are some suggestions related to supporting people during difficult times. How to offer support to your team member during difficult times: • Express positive regard (e.g., "I really respect you.") • Express concern, care and interest (e.g., "I really care for you.") • Express availability (e.g., I'm here for you whenever you want to talk.") • Express alliance, togetherness, and solidarity when possible—others may see the situation differently than how you see it (e.g., You are not alone in your concerns--I have similar worries and stresses about what is happening.") • Express acknowledgement, comprehension and understanding (e.g., I respect that this is very hard and frightening.") Be a good listener: • Eliminate distractions. Try to find a quiet place to talk. • Listen more than talk. Don't monopolize the conversation. For someone going through a difficult time, one of the most helpful things you can do is listen. You don't have to have something to say all of the time. • Listen to understand. Learn their specific needs. • Be guided by them. Sometimes they may just need an empathetic ear. • Be empathetic. Ask how they are feeling. • Acknowledge what they are telling you. Summarize the gist what they have been telling you in order to make sure you are understanding them and let them know that you have been really listening. • Don't give unsolicited advice. Silence is okay sometimes. It can be disrespectful to offer advice to someone who is not seeking it and who has a very different lived experience. Listening and validation are the most important responses. Legitimizing the other person's feelings: • Say that the person's feelings are reasonable and appropriate (e.g., "Of course, you are worried…it is a very scary time.") • Acknowledge the person's plight or circumstances (e.g., "This sounds really hard. So much is happening that brings feelings of anger and fear to the surface.") • Reassure the person that it's okay to express their feelings if they want to, that none are off base (e.g., "There are no right or wrong feelings in situations like this.) AVOID these kinds of messages: • "I know how you feel." • "Let me tell you what you need to do." • Imply the person's feelings are not legitimate. • Minimizing their feelings (e.g., "It's not that big of a deal") • Say that expressing feelings is dysfunctional (e.g., "You are going to make yourself crazy if you dwell on all that anger.") • Tell the person how to feel (e.g., "You should be hopeful") • Focus on your own feelings (e.g., "Let me tell you about what happened to me…I'm more worried than you are.") • Get over-involved in the person's life or feelings (e.g., "I want you to call me at least 3 times a day and tell me how you are doing.")

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