Communication 101 for Daughters and Mothers – #5 The Power of Empathy

By Val Boyko • July 17th, 2011

empathy - speak from your heartOne of our fundamental longings as human beings is to be heard and be understood. Take a moment to recall a time where you were having difficulty and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I expect!

When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged: We no longer feel alone; We feel understood; We become calmer; We usually feel better and are more able to handle the situation.

Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open positive way.

It feels good to us, but how often do we intentionally empathize with someone else?

Marshall Rosenburg shares with his readers in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how difficult it is to empathize with those who appear to posses more power, status or resources AND those who are closest to us.

It isn’t surprising that empathizing with our mothers doesn’t come easily!

One of my favorite quotes in the book is:

“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”

He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”

Empathy Exercise:

Over the next few days see if you can empathize more with your mother, daughter, someone close or even your boss.

Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through.

Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:

I’m sensing that this is very scary for you

It sounds like you are really angry right now

I can see that this is tough for you

I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard

I hear that you are concerned

It sounds like you are frustrated

So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.

Val Comment: When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “fix” for the other person. This time, wait and empathize first. Give the the gift of being heard and understood first and turn it into a win/win for your both.


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  • COMMUNICATION QUIZ - Can You Make These Statements?

    Ask yourself if you make any of the following 15 statements. Find out if you are expressing yourself fully and are communicating with openness and presence.
    • SCORING The highest possible score is 30, and the lowest is zero. The higher the score, the higher your likelihood of having success in all your relationships. 0-9: You probably find yourself frustrated in relationships (especially with your mother) more often than you would like. 10-15: You have a high aptitude for relating and are open to learning 16-24: You have good relationship skills. How can you apply them more to your mother relationship? 25-30: Congratulations! Your capacity for present-centered relating is at a very high level.
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