Empathic and Non-Empathic Responses

Raise your awareness when you practice the following reactions in your life. These reactions are common and tend to block our compassion. The world is full of them. To become aware of them inside yourself, you need to stop and check what you are doing.

When you notice that you are employing one of the below communication strategies, this insight may become the starting point to make a wonderful step towards more compassion in your life. You can use the awareness of what you are doing to learn how to do it differently the next time you encounter a person that expresses discomfort or pain to you.

These are some typical categories of non-empathic ways of communication, that you may become aware of:

  • Advising: “I think you should . . . ” “How come you didn’t . . . ?”
  • One-upping: “That’s nothing; wait’ll you hear what happened to me.”
  • Educating: “This could turn into a very positive experience for you if you just . . . ”
  • Consoling: “It wasn’t your fault; you did the best you could.”
  • Story-telling: “That reminds me of the time . . . ”
  • Shutting down: “Cheer up. Don’t feel so bad.”
  • Sympathizing: “Oh, you poor thing . . . ”
  • Interrogating: “When did this begin?”
  • Explaining: “I would have called but . . . ”
  • Correcting: “That’s not how it happened.”

How to learn with compassion

Instead of getting angry at yourself when you notice that you did employ such a strategy, try to connect with the good reason for doing so. What was your need, when you did what you did? For example: What was your need when you “corrected” someone? Try to connect to the need. Then think about what would you like to have said instead. This would be a kind way of relating to yourself, when you act in a way that is not in harmony with your values.


What will you say in the following situations?

A person looks into the mirror and says: “I am ugly as a pig.”
You say?

A person says to you: “I’m feeling very depressed. I just don’t see any reason to go on.”
You say?

You lend your car to a new neighbor. Your family says: “You are a fool to have lend your car to a total stranger?”
You say?

A colleague says: “You are not a good team player.”
You say?