Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling understood? Feeling like the listener really “got you” and how you were feeling?
This happened to me recently. I was upset about a situation where a doctor took advantage of my college age daughter who was seeking medical attention at a clinic near her university.
My daughter called to tell me what the physician said to her during her exam and about how she was being treated (more accurately, mis-treated). I asked her to give me the phone number of the clinic so I could contact them personally.
I called immediately and spoke to the receptionist who wouldn’t allow me to speak with the physician directly.
So, feeling powerless, I began railing about my daughter’s poor treatment at her clinic.
The anger boiled out of me about how the doctor was using her credentials to intimidate my daughter, without caring about my daughter’s physical needs.
I carried on and lamented about the injustice of the situation because of the power differential between the two and how the doctor was violating her own ethical code to “do no harm” by the things she said to my daughter.
And on it went until I said my piece.
The receptionist at the clinic listened to my complaints and told me she understood how I was feeling and didn’t blame me for being angry.
She gave me her email address and told me how to file a report about the incident and where to send it. Then she offered to help by allowing me to talk with my daughter personally so I could give her reassurance and comfort.
The fire within me slowly died away.
As soon as I felt like “she got me”, that she understood how I was feeling, something changed in me. And we were able to resolve the situation.
Feeling understood sucks the life out of conflict and is a healing balm.
Feeling like someone “gets you” is what I call empathy.
Empathy is a process involving listening, connecting to emotion and validating.
Empathy means listening and, I mean really listening to the other person’s feelings.
It means intentionally making an effort to connect to the emotions the other person is expressing.
It is NOT focusing on the facts surrounding the situation. It IS focusing on the feelings expressed.
If you know sadness, longing, fear, worry, powerlessness, injustice and sadness (to name a few emotions), then you are equipped to be an “I Get You” person.
Let’s practice right now.
Recall a time when someone you love was being mistreated. Make sure you remember a specific incident where a loved one was not treated fairly.
Get in touch with feelings like being upset, worried, feeling powerless, feeling that the situation wasn’t just and feeling sadness (that your loved one had to endure the painful mistreatment).
When you can imagine yourself having those feelings, you are ready to express empathy.
Here are some phrases to help you convey that “you get” your loved one:
- I don’t blame you for feeling….
- I hear you are hurting…
- I’m sorry you are feeling…
- I’m here for you.
Being an “I Get You” person takes practice, and practice improves empathetic responses.
Soon you’ll find others walking away from conversations with you with that wonderful feeling of being understood!