Screenshot_2015-03-13-06-07-03-1

Have you ever poured your heart out to someone and you were given a cliché response? You know the… “It could be worse,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” or “There are other people worse off then you.” These responses have been ways that people encourage others to look at their glass half full. However, if one of those responses are said without an individual truly taking the time to empathize with a person, it can come off callous and a bit robotic. I know that those responses are what we know to say. It’s how we have been conditioned to comfort people. What if I told you there is a different way. You can say the same thing but the timing of when you say it makes all the difference. The truth is, when someone comes to you with an issue most of the time they just want you to listen. Most people want to be seen, heard, and understood. You can’t just shove answers down someone’s throat without listening fully to what the person has to say! The truth is most of the time “You ain’t got the answers” *Kanye Voice* (I had to do it lol) There is nothing wrong with giving a solution. However, when you problem solve before you can truly comprehend what a person is saying, what happens is you mute that persons voice. They will retreat, repress their thoughts and shut down. Here is an example.

Take 1

Person 1: How was your day?

Person 2: I had a really tough day at work today.

Person 1: Well at least you have a job.

Person 2: Yes. I know, but my supervisor yelled at me today.

Person 1: Robert down the street isn’t working. He would be happy to take your place without complaining.

Person 2: I hear you, I know Robert has been looking for work, but I am trying to tell you, my supervisor made a huge scene in front of everyone. I felt so embarrassed.

Person 1: I mean if you made a mistake, as a supervisor, He was just doing his job.

Person 2: You don’t even know what happened… I didn’t make a mistake…

Person 1: Don’t worry about it. Look at the bright side, at least God has blessed you with a job.

Person 2: I know but…Never mind…

You tell me how the Heart to Heart conversation went with Person 1 and Person 2? Was person 1 really listening? NOPE. Person 1 was shutting Person 2 down by saying at least you have a job. I mean the SHADE that was being thrown. Yes, that may be true that there are people in America who do not have a job. But Person 2 is entitled to how they feel and should be able to express themselves without feeling guilt. Person 2 said their supervisor made a huge scene and embarrassed them. Person 1 didn’t even ask what happened, they already jumped to a conclusion. Plus they topped it  off with “encouragement” don’t worry about it… Look at the bright side, at least God has blessed you with a job! Person 2 just pretty much shut the conversation down and said Never mind! The main thing that was missing was empathy.

Empathy-definition-green

We have to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Even if we never experienced what they have gone through. Even if we had a similar experience. Do not minimize someone else’s experience. Some people push this whole “You need to be more transparent message.” Then turn around and perpetuate this cycle of “Perfection”….you have to be happy all the time and not have any problems message. Guess what? If someone is going through something they’re not going to call Ms. Self-Righteous or Mr. Know-It-All to pray them through! It never fails, when there is a major tragedy, that same person screams at the top of their lungs. “Why didn’t he or she talk to me… I was available.” The truth of the matter is, no one is going to be transparent or share the depth of their soul with someone they feel is judging them or someone who doesn’t listen to them. What Individuals don’t understand is when you give people a cookie cutter, one size fits all response, we remove the human side of encouragement. You are speaking to a human being who is discouraged, frustrated, or down. In order to move from a surface relationship to one of substance, one must learn how to empathize. Let’s try it again..

Take 2

Person 1: How was you day?

Person 2: I had a really tough day at work today.

Person 1: Really, What happened?

Person 2: My supervisor yelled at me today.

Person 1: He yelled at you? Oh no! Why?

Person 2: He made a huge scene in front of everyone. I felt so embarrassed.

Person 1: I can hear how hurt you are over what happened. If anything, He should have spoken to you one-on-one and not in front of everyone.

Person 2: Here’s what happened, my supervisor continues to dump his work on me and I wasn’t able to finish my work and his on time. So he made this huge scene. Sigh… I feel overworked and overwhelmed.

Person 1: So you’re doing His work and your work. That’s messed up. Have you tried bringing this up to his superior. It sounds like He may be taking advantage of you.

Person 2: You know what, I have thought of it a while back, this time, I think I will have to make a phone call!

This is the same conversation from earlier. There is a huge difference! Person 1 was present in the conversation. They listened. The greatest gift you can give someone is an ear and an open heart… Just listen! Without judgment and empathize with that person’s situation (even if you’ve never experienced what they’re going through). You’ll be surprised, how much healing takes place. The main difference here was active listening. Person 1 didn’t jump to a conclusion right away. They asked for more details,  identified the feelings (I can hear how hurt you are) that were not said… Person 2 was hurt, and because Person 1 was so connected to Person 2’s story. Person 2 felt safe and opened up even more and started to share details. Relationship is about connection. Empathy brings us together in such a humbling way. You have to be able to relate to people in order to connect.

Screenshot_2015-03-13-05-45-03-1

We’re All Human: We have to stop acting like we have it all together all the time. The truth is we do not. NO ONE HAS ARRIVED! Strength is not one-dimensional. There is strength in standing in your truth. There is strength in being vulnerable. I want to break this ideology of pretense and phoniness. What people don’t realize is the counselor needs to be counseled, the one who offers encouragement needs to be encouraged… the pastor needs to hear a word… the healers need to be healed. The strong one deserves the right to be vulnerable as well.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle-Plato

FYI: Even Christians battle with depression and suicidal thoughts…everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about… All you see is the surface and make assumptions. Individuals are held captive, hiding behind masks, in this prison, scared to show their scars, because of fear of condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Christ has set us free…  Your expectations for Believers may be that we have to wave, smile, kiss the babies and we don’t have problems… that is a lie. Yes. We count it all joy when trials come, but God allows us to be honest with Him through every experience. David kept it real with God. Job kept it real with God. Jesus kept it real with God.

1. There are modern day Pharisees. Don’t allow them to condemn you and point a finger of Judgment into your life. It is not their fault, they don’t know any better. Pray for them to Allow God to reveal Himself to them in a way that will soften their hearts.

2. You may feel misunderstood and alone because no one understands you. Listen, Jesus understands you. He was touched by our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). He is able to empathize with us! We have to strive to be Christ like and if God who became flesh and dwelled among us is able to understand what we are going through yet He did not sin. We have to learn to empathize with others.

Everybody Can’t Hang : I’ve learned along the way that everyone can not carry the weight of your cares. Talk to Jesus First. Then pray for divine connections, confidants who can handle the depths of your soul with care. Everybody can not hang. Nor should they have the right to. They could be a family member, a spouse or a close friend they still might not have the capacity to comfort you. Being emotionally available is an emotional workout… some people may not know how to tap into those parts of their heart yet or they might not want to. One of my good friends always reminds me “Do not give your pearls to swine” (Matthew 7:6). Everyone should not have an “All Access” Backstage pass into your heart. The truth is, only special people can handle your heart with care. Be vulnerable… yes… with safe people only.

Vicky’s Final thoughts:  Since I was a kid, I was always a good listener. I was the one who was easy to talk to so I studied psychology in undergrad because of it. What’s interesting enough my day job allows me to be a listener. I never fully understood the power of listening, until I knew what it felt like to not be heard! What can be painful is pouring out your heart and soul to someone who does not have the capacity to comfort you. One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of mercy so God allows me to connect with people. It warms my heart when I hear “Thank you for listening.” Our society can be so Robotic. Get over it, move on, hurry up and heal! Sigh… I wish it were that easy but it’s not!

Before you assume, learn the facts_ Before you judge, understand why_ Before you hurt someone, feel_ Before you Speak, think_

I’ve learned to watch my words, not to dismiss people’s feelings. Disconnect when I need to. Cast the cares of others to God. He’s the only one that can do something about it and although I give advice it is up to that person to decide what they want to do. I thank God for allowing me to be myself and hold my hand along the way. He shapes me into who He wants me to be. He also teaches me to empathize, still speak the truth in love, be honest, correct when necessary and most importantly, He gives me permission to… Be Human..  <3

{P.S. I am an advocate for counseling! Seek help. If you are a college student and you need someone to talk to visit your counseling center. For 24 hour help if you need to talk to someone call 211 or 954-537-0211 First Call for Help 211 Broward.} <3

Vicky S. Joseph

Vicky is a Public Speaker, Spoken-Word Artist, Actress and Writer. With Her sparkling personality she wants to ignite moral change in individuals! <3