Tag Archives: empathy

I Don’t Know What to Say

4 Nov

A couple of months ago my mother passed away. I posted a short message to my friends on Facebook and was soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages of sympathy and comfort I received back. In difficult situations like this social media really comes in handy.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with an old friend about a year ago. He shared with me that he had heard that the wife of an old friend that we used to work with years earlier, had recently passed away. Neither of us had spoken with this friend for a quite a while, and, when I asked him if he had called to offer his condolences he said, “No, I haven’t but I really want to. But I never know what to say in these situations.”

This seems to be a very common occurrence. You don’t know what to say even though your heart feels the emotion you so want to express. It’s happened to me. In fact, when I was a younger man I almost always felt uncomfortable speaking with people older than myself and expressing my sympathies or just my concerns. Why, was that? I’m really not sure. But obviously I felt fear around it.

Maybe I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing. That would definitely get my face to glow red. Or, maybe I feared that whatever I said would be taken the wrong way. Then for days afterward I’d be beating myself up about what an idiot I was.

I remember once, I was on this board, and one of the members approached another and expressed his sympathies on the death of that man’s wife. I hadn’t heard that she died but I was afraid to even mention my sympathies for fear that maybe, since we didn’t know each other that well, my words would sound counterfeit and insincere. And so, to my shame, I did nothing.

As I’ve gotten older I realize how crazy all of this is. It’s was my crazy thoughts that were keeping me from reaching out to another human being with emotions that were both heartfelt and genuine. I learned to overpower my fear of doing this by just doing it. I learned not to be afraid of what to say. Just about anything you say will be greatly appreciated. I know because I have been on the receiving end.

But, if you need something to say try these. For a death: I am so sorry for the loss of your father. I know this is a very difficult time for you. So if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. For an illness: I am so sorry to hear about your wife’s illness. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I know you’re probably going to be stretched thin in dealing with this. So, if I can be of any help I would welcome your call.

With just the changing of a few words either of the above statements can be altered for any situation and give voice to whatever it is your heart is saying.




28 Oct

In a recent conversation about raising children with my publisher, Nance Rosen, I mentioned that I believed the greatest gift that we could teach our children was empathy. The ability to mentally and emotionally put one’s self in another’s situation to gain a greater understanding of what that person is going through. She agreed.

If you’ve read my book Overpowering Fear – Defeating the #1 Challenge in Sales and Life then you’re probably aware that I admitted that I was not as good a father as I should have been, or as I could have been.  If you are waiting for your copy to arrive from Amazon or Barnes & Noble then you probably have not read my dedication:

“To my beautiful daughters Melissa and Jennifer. When you were growing up I wasn’t always there for you. And nothing I could say or do can change that. But today I stand in awe of the incredible wives, mothers and good citizens you have become. And what I want you to know is that I am so very proud to be your Dad. To both of you I dedicate this book.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I was not as great a father as I thought I was, but I was not as bad a father as my daughters may have thought I was. I was like most parents of my generation. I modeled myself after my father. I know he loved me but he was almost never there for me, even when he was there. And, remember, children do not come with an instruction manual. We do the best that we can and hope for the best.

But as you can see in my book dedication I believe that the girl’s mom and I did succeed in teaching our daughters empathy. For how else could I stand in awe of the incredible wives, mothers and good citizens they have become? My daughters believe in the goodness of all people. They can easily put themselves in another’s shoes and feel what others are feeling, and going through in their lives. With empathy comes understanding. And with understanding comes peace.

So, before it’s too late, give your children the greatest gift you can. Teach them to be empathetic. To feel empathy means that you are endlessly connected to everyone on the planet. What could be greater than that?