It Can be Easy to be Dismissive of Someone Else’s Feelings About Something Can’t It?
Your friend tells you about something that they are upset about, and you don’t consider it a big deal. So, you say something like “you shouldn’t let that bother you” or “that’s not really a big deal.”
There’re many ways to say something dismissive, and you may have something specific that you say. It doesn’t really matter how you say it, the issue is the appearance of being dismissive.
The bottom line is that this is an interpersonal error. It is not our place to judge someone’s feelings. And it’s definitely not our place to tell them how they should feel, and further, how they should respond.
Actually, the only time we should offer any of our own thoughts on how someone might consider responding in a given situation is if we are asked ( as a general rule).
When You Dismiss You are Displaying Empathic Ignorance.
We are showing that we clearly don’t get it.
Regardless of our intention in the moment, how does it make the other person feel?
Defensive? Hurt? Or worse De-valued?
We are essentially suggesting that we think their reaction is not appropriate, or the issue is unimportant. Even if we don’t actually think that.
We might even BE compassionate about this and intend to make them feel better, but they won’t know this, even if we are using the best tone and expression.
Remember, there is typically a gap between your intention and someone else’s perception.
You Can’t Surface Understand Someone’s Emotional Reaction to Something.
You have to stop and consider…what have their experiences been like in this area? What do they value, and how deeply do they value it?
You then might further consider the nature of their reaction? What kinds of things create a similar outward reaction in you? How does that reaction outwardly, feel for you? How do you typically outwardly respond as a result of this feeling?
I could go on with more questions, but the point here is simple….you have to SEEK to understand first. You have to invest the time in getting clear.
This means you have to listen. And listen the right way and with the proper intention. And if you don’t want to take the time to listen, you and they are better served if you just say something like “that must be hard, is there anything I can do to help.”
The video below is a good starting point that can help if you learn this skill. We have an empathy crisis in today’s world, and the only way to solve it is for people to start truly listening to one another, and then learn the skills to communicate without judgement.
In the meantime…I strongly suggest not telling people how they should feel (notice I didn’t tell you that you SHOULD:-)
Many Blessings, Todd
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