When someone tells an empath their problems – what do they really want?

As empaths, we get stories from people a lot. We get life stories, simple day-to-day stories or random stuff that is on their mind.  Often this happens at work, in grocery checkout lines, at school activities, at the park: basically any possible times and locations where friends and strangers come together.

When this happens, we don’t always know what to do. Even though we are empaths and we feel them we don’t know what they want.

For example, someone may say

“Frank ignored me in the meeting today!”

In which case, we wonder, what do they really want from us? How do they want us to respond?

1. Do they want sympathy, and for us to say: “That must be horrible for you – and I totally understand why you’re upset. There, there!”
2. Do they want us to offer a palliative, and say: “Perhaps they were just a bit focused on something else – I’m sure they’ll be OK with you next time”.
3. Do they want us to challenge your thinking, and say: “Are you sure you were making your own points clearly and purposefully enough – remember, there are two sides to everything”.
4. Do they want us to coach them on the point, and say: “This has happened before – why do you think they behave in this way? What do you feel YOUR part in it might be?”
5. Do they want us to simply listen?

Sometimes they want us to fix it for them. We should never get in the habit of fixing things for people. Instead we should always guide them in ways to help them fix it themselves.

When someone brings you their problem, unless they’re explicit, you usually won’t know what they want from you.

Here’s the kicker: Neither do they.

Sometimes it’s easiest (and hardest) to wait in silence for a while. Maintaining eye contact is good so they know you are listening but that you are giving them space and waiting for them to continue. People who want or expect something will fill that silence with their wants and needs. They may then say something like “What do you think I should do?” or “Why do you think he’s being like this?” or “I guess I’ll just have to speak to him.” or “Could it be something I did?”

Look out for clues that could guide you into being what they need at that time. Honestly, usually it is best just listening, not offering any advice, sympathy, excuses, challenging or coaching.

Just listen.


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