Expressing Empathy: Part 3

Expressing Empathy: Part 3

Tips for Showing Empathy: Strategies for Becoming More Empathic

Nonverbal Communication

  • Listen to what is not being said. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues being sent by you and the other person.
  • Face the person. Keep your body posture relaxed and open. Lean toward the person.
  • Maintain eye contact. Mimic their facial expressions –be careful that your expression is not blank or frowning.
  • Physical contact, such as a hug or touching the person’s arm, may be helpful.
  • Recognize what you are feeling, especially negative feelings.

Verbal Communication

What to Say:

  • If possible, talk in a place that is comfortable and will have minimal interruptions.
  • Allow the person to talk uninterrupted.
  • Ask open-ended questions. This lets the person know that you’re willing to listen. Example – How are you doing with this? Would it help to talk about this? Is there something troubling you? What are you feeling?
  • Use a pleasant tone of voice.
  • Statements you might say:
    • “You seem worried.”
    • “I see why you are concerned about this.”
    • “Tell me more about what is worrying you.”
    • “I will be here for you.”
    • “It sounds like you are feeling…(fill in the blank).”

What Not to Say:

  • Do not try to fix the problem, interpret or analyze what is happening, or argue.
  • Do not preach, lecture, judge, blame or criticize. Avoid saying “should” or “ought to.”
  • Do not minimize their fears by saying, “It will be fine” or “you’ll be OK” or “at least it isn’t…”

Communicating About Cancer Series Info

This research project was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA144235; Dr. Wayne Beach, San Diego State University, Principal Investigator). Co-investigators included Dr. David Dozier from San Diego State University, and Mary Buller, Dr. Valerie Myers, and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel, Inc.

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