Hearing someone's emotional pain can be really hard. The more intimately you care about someone, the more difficult it can be.
We too easily jump to the wrong response. Most of us default to trying to “fix it," or we try to tell our own stories to connect, or try to cheer them up- and we miss the mark. Leaving both us and the person we're supporting feeling confused or alone.
When people experience pain, they need to be heard and validated through empathy, not pity or sympathy. But most of us aren't taught skills for showing empathy and really hearing those we love. Even though we mean well, we usually have a hard time coming up with empathetic responses.
When we empathize with people we care about, we give them space to process, feel heard and validated in their feelings and an opportunity for real support.
Some people seem naturally gifted with the ability to empathize with others, while other people have to work at expanding their comfort with emotions. With a little practice anyone can get better at offering empathy in relationships.
If you're not sure what to say to someone who is hurting try some of the responses below. This list of statements has been designed to incorporate words/feelings for what you are experiencing in hearing another persons’ pain.
These example statements will be better received when they are said from an authentic place. Reflect on the situation at hand, and then try these on (in your mind, or out loud) to see which resonates most for you before you share them with your loved one.
Empathetic Statements that Show You Really Care:
- That sounds so hard.
- I bet you feel hurt because of this experience.
- Sometimes these things don’t really make sense.
- I imagine this is really confusing.
- I have your back in this.
- I can hear in your voice that this has been really difficult for you.
- Thank you for opening up to share this with me.
- Hearing you say that gives me chills.
- I am here for you anytime.
- That would frustrate me too.
- It sounds like you have really tried to make sense of all of this.
- I would be asking the same questions you are if I were in the situation.
- This kind of thing is never easy.
- I might be really frustrated or annoyed if that happened in my life.
- That sounds really frightening.
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
- How can I best show my support for you?
- It is clear that this has deeply affected you.
- If something like that happened to me I would be very upset too.
- I hear you.
- It sounds like you have been really stressed.
- That does sound tough.
- I bet that was really overwhelming.
- You are right, it does not make sense at all.
- I bet that had a big impact.
- I will be with you through this.
- That sounds frightening.
- That is super disappointing.
- Is there some tangible way I can offer my support to you in this?
- I can see why you'd be really hurt by that.
- That sounds scary.
- That must be infuriating.
- No wonder you are upset.
- I am happy to talk more if you need.
- It must have taken some courage to share that with me. I appreciate your bravery.
If you want a little more empathy coaching, I'm happy to schedule a solo session with you to help you communicate with greater impact.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, insecurity or codependency
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
- break unhealthy communication patterns
- open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.