Empathy and Silence: Being Available to Others in Times of Crisis
Have you not noticed that love is silence? It may be while holding the hand of another, or looking lovingly at a child, or taking in the beauty of an evening...."— Jiddu Krishnamurti
My eldest sister with me
Empathy and silence in tandem can be salve that eases the raw edges when a friend or loved one is faced with a crisis.
By definition empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
While we may not be able to put ourselves exactly in the position that another person is feeling we can to some degree understand their pain or fear or frustration. We may have experienced a situation that was similar to the one they face which helps us to internalize how the person feels.
Sounds to calm and soothe
Silence is better than unmeaning words.
Down by the waters finding a time for reflection
Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.— Moshin Hamid
Being present is often all that is needed
Are you comfortable sitting with someone in complete silence?
Can you find the power that it offers? Often when we are visiting with a friend or family member who is struggling with an issue, we are inclined to ramble on hoping that we may say something that will help in some way.
And sometimes, bingo, we are successful and one phrase or word touches their heart and mind.
Other times our words are falling on deaf ears as the lovely person in need struggles to make sense of the situation Sometimes just giving them a chance to speak and being willing to listen is spot on.
Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.— Marcus Tullius Cicero
Silence can truly be just what is needed
Many times that is just what the person really wants---to be heard. The need is for you to listen. The silence from you so that words (and perhaps tears) flow forth in an uninterrupted stream of consciousness is often needed.
You are not being asked to fix their problem usually. You are simply being asked to hear and perhaps to feel ...to identify with the feelings being expressed.
And chances are empathy will kick in. As was stated previously, you may not have experienced exactly what this person is facing but you very probably have had a challenge that may mirror the one that is being shared.
Listening without commenting or editorializing often is so very powerful.
Each of us has been blessed to be on the receiving end of someone's listening, caring ear
For example....this was a crisis to this parent
For three years, in a small school tucked in a very poor section of Daytona Beach, I served as a parent advocate. I held workshops, raised monies through grants, made many many home visits, picked up parents for meetings and parent conferences, ad infinitum.
We had a parent center where parents were invited to come to get information or learn computer skills or take GED classes (which was made possible by one of my grants...which thrilled me).
One morning a parent came in to attend one of the GED classes. But first she sat down and began to rail and rant and rave about this horrible teacher and all she had done, is now doing, and will probably do in the future.
I listened. No words. Just listening and maintaining eye contact.
And when she was finished. She felt better. She was calm. All she wanted was for someone to listen. She felt her concerns had previously fallen on deaf ears. So by acknowledging that she was upset and allowing her to share how she felt, the situation was diffused. And she no longer wanted to go down to the classroom and hit the teacher over the head with a baseball bat. Good thing!!!
The teacher was advised of the concerns and a meeting was arranged for the end of that same day while I went in a taught her class. The two met and discussion ensued.
The power of silence is deafening!!!
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo F. Buscaglia— Leo buscaglia
Often on this walk, we find that 'stuff' happens...unplanned, unwanted, frightening, life-changing experiences come our way that may turn our lives upside down.
- a death...sudden or expected
- a divorce
- a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness
- financial disasters
- natural disaster such as hurricanes and earthquakes
- misunderstandings or difficulties with educators
- and on and on....
Having to deal with them often is troublesome.
Reach out today....it will make all the difference
Take time to listen
It is very likely that your life or the life of someone very close to you has experienced one of the situations mentioned above.
Having endured such experiences may cause you to be able to be more empathetic toward others. As we know that is not always the case. Sometimes there are individuals who become cynical and jaded by having endured such experiences. I cannot be critical of those who have. We all have our own take on how we walk this walk on this planet.
For me offering my time and my ears with my mouth shut to someone who needs a listening ear costs me nothing and hopefully gives some relief to someone else who is suffering. It lets that person know someone cares. It lets them know someone understands. It lets them know they are not alone.
Solitude and nature's beauty soothes us often like no other salve can do
Knowing when to be silent is not something we learn. It is an innate ability. It happens often when it is most needed.
When sitting at the bedside of a beloved church member two years ago, we chatted very briefly. It was two days before her death. We knew she was very close to death so we all rallied around and took turns visiting her.
When I went I carried a soft stuffed puppy and told her when she felt pain she could snuggle with it. We spoke briefly and I sat there, holding her hand for a bit. No more words needed to be said. I sat for a while and then when she opened her eyes, I squeezed her hand, and said I would see her again.
No words. Just being there. I hope when it is my time, that someone will know they do not need to chatter on and on...just to come and touch my hand for a bit...just be there.
Entering into a place of quiet and calm provides time for quiet reflection
My eldest sister is in a home for seniors. She requires pretty much availability to round the clock care. She can get out of bed and do things for herself but mainly travels around in a wheelchair.
She lives about two hours from me so I do not get to see her too often. But when I do I take her out to lunch. She enjoys it very much but most of her conversation centers around the fact that she is not really happy where she is. This person does that and that person does this and so on. And I totally understand.
I listen. I do not editorialize on what she is saying. She needs to say it. She needs to be heard. And while I can change nothing, I can hear her and let her know that I do care.
It is hard for me (she does not know this) to leave her there. I only hope that she receives some measure of pleasure from my visits.
Listening and caring...empathizing with her. I do not know how she feels...but I can imagine.
Take time to reach out ....
Some years ago there was a commercial that said...."reach out and touch someone".
If you are taking the time to be available to listen and feel empathy for another that is what you are doing...you are reaching out and touching someone. The effects of the time you spend may not be clearly evident to you but they are very real and very important to those on the receiving end.
I know because I have been blessed and continue to be blessed to be on the receiving end of such actions. And it means more than any words can adequately express.
The next time someone reaches out to you...be it a friend or family member....try not to be too busy or to tell them you will get with them later....make the time then to offer your support by listening and showing you care. It can be life-altering.
Visit a friend in the hospital
Two months ago a friend suffered a stroke. She was in ICU for 18 days and has been in the hospital since then. When I visit I mainly listen. That is what she needs most. I am a chatty person but l am also a great listener. So that is what I do for her--listen and help as needed.
© 2017 Patricia Scott