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When Others don't receive your empathy

Have you ever tried to offer someone empathy only to see it bounce off of them? Sometimes it's as though people have a force field. They respond to your guess at their feelings and needs by telling their story again, by trying to problem solve and analyze or by criticizing themselves and others.

You'd like to connect and you also have a sense that it would really help them if they could receive your offer of empathy.

It's time to interrupt.

We all have the training that interrupting is "rude" (that it doesn't meet needs for consideration). And this might be true if you interrupt to interject your own opinion, problem solve, give advice, tell your own related story, etc.

I am suggesting you interrupt to connect with the other more fully.

The problem is that a lot of folks don't know how to create or receive the listening and connection for which they long.

How can you help?

There are a number of hints about interrupting that will help the other receive your interruption without defensiveness.

Immediately state your intention to connect with them:

"Hang on, I'm really wanting to get what you're saying and I'm not sure if I am. Are you feeling irritated because you need mutuality in the relationship?"

Don't give up, if they ignore your guess, try again.

"Let me see if I'm getting it. Are you feeling exasperated because you need cooperation?"

Reflect the thoughts back before moving to feelings and needs.

"Yea, you're thinking they were wrong for doing that."

Say what you notice is happening with your guesses.

"Hey, Chris, I am noticing I am making guesses about what you were experiencing and not getting a response from you. Could you tell me if I am in the ball park with my guesses just now?"

If they don't connect with feelings, try just guessing needs.

"Are you needing some consideration?"

Express your own feelings and needs.

"I notice I am feeling a little frustrated because I want to connect and I am not sure how. Could you tell me what you are wanting me to hear most about what you are saying?"

The most important thing to remember is that you are interrupting to connect and this takes courage. Interrupting might mean some awkwardness, or conflict at first.

A fair share of us, myself included, have had training in our families of origin that tell us to attempt to maintain harmony at all costs.  Sometimes this gets in the way of genuine connection.

My experience is that the more alive I feel and the more tools I have, the less willing I am to sacrifice a moment of this precious life for keeping the peace, being polite, or acting from obligation.

Interrupting to connect means you are valuing the need for aliveness for you and the other.  It takes courage, practice, and skill to move from being a nice polite dead person to being a person of aliveness and genuine connection.  Notice the next time you feel disconnected in a conversation, practice interrupting to connect.

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