“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” – Zig Ziglar’s adaptation of President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote
Regardless of where you first heard the quote, the fact of the matter is that it is true. Delivering care to another person is so much more effective in helping them to feel better than delivering comments about how much we care for them. When others are upset and need to know we care about them, it will be our actions, then our words, that convey how much we care about their “innards.” Why does it have to be in this order or sequence? Glad you asked.
Researchers have discovered that when we feel upset, the best thing in the world is to attend to the Right side of the brain, that part of us that feels fear, pain, hurt, scared, worried, disappointed, betrayed, misunderstood or frustrated. When we demonstrate care to the person who is feeling any of the above mentioned feelings, we are creating a safe environment where the other person may begin to experience calm, a reduction in their anxiety and something that clinicians call “a corrective emotional experience,” because our goal is to help the person feel better.
When the upset person begins to feel better, because our actions have facilitated safety, then they’re able to hear and take in the Left Brain rational messages that explain, describe, validate, encourage and express the true message we wish to convey, which is that we do in fact care about them very much. This sequential process is so important in your effort to achieve and demonstrate empathic responses to the person that you love, care about and desperately want to feel better. Let me explain further.
I started writing this post on Saturday, October 31, 2015, which was the day after the devastating crash of the Russian Metrojet flight in which 217 passengers and a crew of seven were tragically killed. As the media began to display images of airline officials surveying the crash site and of family members who were grieving the loss of their loved ones, I was struck by the amount of pictures that showed people holding tightly to one another with their faces deeply buried in the shoulders of loved ones who were consoling them. In one online newspaper, 50% of the pictures displayed were of people empathetically conveying care, through strong and tight hugs, in an attempt to soothe the pain and loss of people they care about and I can only assume, long before a word was spoken to them.
I don’t know what the motivation of the media could have been to publish images of people who were delivering and receiving sympathy, empathy and compassion when tragedy like this struck their lives. However, I do know that touch, care, warmth, tenderness, compassion and other behaviors that demonstrate kindness tend to help any person to feel connected, safe, cared for and loved, which is the appropriate behavioral response when we see them hurting, in pain and desperately in need of some form of relief.
In closing this post on empathy I am reminded of one of the five levels of communication described in Dr. John Powell’s book Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? The levels descend from the least amount of communication to the greatest amount of communication experienced between two people. The levels are:
Level 5: Cliche
Level Four: Reporting the Facts
Level Three: My Thoughts, Judgments and Observations
Level Two: “Gut Level” Communication about My Feelings
Level One: Peak Communication
Peak Communication is the level that got me to thinking about the book. Peak Communication is the deepest level of communication and as is descriptive of this level, words tend to not be used to convey thoughts or sentiments to another, but what is displayed are actions, hugs, closeness, tears, silence, hand holding and tight embraces to convey safety, warmth, care, openness and compassion at the right time that these empathetic expressions of compassion are sorely needed.
My hope is that if you notice that your spouse, partner, family member or a “neighbor” in your life is afraid, upset, anxious or devastated, that you “speak” to his or her Right Brain by delivering compassionate actions that convey the message “your heart is safe with me” and that you do care for them.
Application #1: Cease speaking and start listening: Listening to another person conveys that their thoughts and feelings are important and therefore they are important to you. You can’t go wrong by employing one of the most effective healing agents like listening!
Application #2: If requested, or if given permission, ask if the other person is open to a hug or some form of safe and respectful touch. Safe touches like hands on the shoulders, hand holding or hugs “anchors and grounds” people and helps in the process of regulating their emotions. These simple behaviors recreate calm and safety between the two of you, and when you are calm your messages are more likely to be heard when spoken to one another.
Application #3: Try to practice and become proficient with Application #1 and Application #2 whenever you detect your partner or spouse is upset and needs to know you care about them. Remember, engaging in actions that create safety, calm and that demonstrate compassion will say “I care about you” in the “loudest” and most meaningful way you could imagine.
Thanks for being willing to take this journey with me to discover what Empathy is and how to effectively grow it and to deliver it. Future posts on Empathy will be labeled “Empathy #5,” “Empathy #6,” “Empathy #7” and so on.
Also, thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.