What Empathy is NOT

"I argue very well.  Ask any of my remaining friends.  I can win an
argument on any topic, against any opponent.  People know this, and
steer clear of me at parties.  Often, as a sign of their great respect,
they don't even invite me."
-- Dave Barry

Empathy is not:

correcting/arguing "That's not how it happened." "I didn't start this, you did." "Excuse me? I never said that!"
interrogating "How did it happen?" "When did this begin?" "Why did you do this?"
fixing it "What will help is..." "If I were you, I would..." "Why don't you try...?"
advising "I think you should..." "There is a wonderful self-help book...." "I know what you can do..."
explaining "She said that only because..." "I would have called but..." "I think..."
shutting down "Don't worry about it." "Cheer up. Don't be mad." "Quit complaining."
consoling "It wasn't your fault." "You did the best you could" "It could have been a lot worse"
commiserating "He did that to you? What a jerk!" "How can people do that." "Let's have a drink together."
evaluating "If you hadn't been so rude..." "What's wrong with you!" "She's taking advantage of you."
sympathizing "Oh, you poor thing." "I feel awful for you." "What a shame."
one-upping "You should hear what happened to..." "That's nothing. Listen to this!"
story telling "That reminds me of the time..." "I know how you feel. Yesterday, I was walking..."
educating "You can learn from this."
taking blame "I'm sorry, I should have..."

adapted from lists by Lucy Leu and Holley Humphrey

Other links:
Discouraging words: Life-alienating Communication
Empathic Listening by Holley Humphrey
Back to Empathy and Surfing

Last updated 30 November 2007

Duen Hsi Yen
E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com