Understanding empathing

Recently I found myself thinking about someone else’s problem. It was really frustrating but I kept thinking about what I would do if it was me.

From my perspective and experience, this person wasn’t handling the problem in a way that was helpful to them. I felt this way because time had passed and they had taken little to no action to solve the issue. What they were talking about was pretty much the exact same problem they had months before.

At first I thought what I needed to do was be really clear with them about what I thought would help when they asked me for advice and remind them of this when they were getting caught up in the issue.

But then I reminded myself that this wasn’t my issue to solve, so even if I did happen to be ‘right’, I needed to just allow this person to make their own choices without worrying about the outcome.

Even though I knew all this, I still couldn’t understand why it was all bothering me so much. Then it clicked.

I was over-empathing. I wanted to help the person avoid a ‘bad’ outcome. On the surface this may not seem like a bad thing. However, we don’t need to feel other peoples feelings and take on their problems as our own, it’s unhealthy and unhelpful

There is a vast difference between understanding someone is having a hard time and offering them support and burdening yourself with another issue to the point where you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

I think it’s important to be aware of what we’re actually doing when we respond to things because you may have good intentions and you may think that you’re being helpful but you might just be over-empathing.

Wasting ‘good’ advice

Your good advice is wasted on those that just want a listening ear.

It’s easy to know when you don’t want someone to tell you what they think you should do. But how often do you extend that to other people.

Have you ever found yourself giving what you believe is excellent advice only for the person to totally ignore it?

Perhaps you weren’t paying enough attention to understand that they didn’t want advice in the first place.
 

All ideas welcome

When you’re used to doing things alone, the thought of asking other people for their input, ideas or opinion might not be so appealing.

But often seeking the perspective of an outsider is much more useful than we realise. They’re able to see things from a point of view that is not so easily available to us.

I think sometimes we just want to say that we did things totally and independently, we don’t want other people playing a part or being involved. But if we could only welcome input, ideas and opinions from the right people it could actually be the very thing we need to help us when we get stuck.

You can’t be for everyone

Sometimes in an effort to be inclusive, the original message gets lost in translation.

Maybe the goal is to help a specific group of people but then over time that specific group becomes less and less specific until it now includes everyone. This makes things difficult because all these groups have different wants and needs that are impossible for you to meet all at once.

And so in trying to meet everyones needs you don’t end up meeting anyones.

You can’t be for everyone which might be difficult to accept but that’s okay, you can be for a select group instead. It’s better to help 10 people than to try and help 100 when you don’t have the time, money or resources because you may end up leaving them worse off than if you’d done nothing at all.

When to change your customer

In a podcast episode from a while back the host answered a question about what to do if your customer, the people you’re selling to, aren’t allowing you to make enough money. The answer was something along the lines of ‘change your customer’.

If you know how much you want to make a month as a minimum and you know how many clients you can comfortably take on at once, it’ll give you an indication of how much to charge. It’ll also offer a good idea of who your customer is and who your customer isn’t.

So, often people get caught up in keeping prices low to try and attract more people. Or the tell themselves that helping others requires them to sacrifice their own wants and needs. In this case it means providing affordable services but barely scraping by financially. The reality is that low prices means you need to make a lot more sales.

Instead it is worth thinking about who you can provide services to so that you won’t need 101 sales each month or 101 clients. That might mean increasing your prices and changing your customer. Helping people shouldn’t be at your own expense. You have to Many people want to help others but that shouldn’t be at your own expense. You have to find a way to do it in a way that works for you.

That could mean providing services to a select few customers/clients that enable you to make enough money to live comfortably. Then use your spare time to provide something for free that will he helpful for those that can’t afford to pay for what you offer.

Everyone’s a critic

But not everyone is doing the work and not everyone understands.

You’ll often find that the ones that are talking the most are those that do that least.

When it comes to criticism, it is so important not to take on the thoughts and opinions of the wrong people. When you’re working on something and it isn’t going well it can result in your sense of self and confidence being reduced. When this happens you’re likely to find yourself more susceptible to take on the criticism of others.

Criticism can be useful, in fact incredibly helpful when it’s from the right people. However, when it’s from the wrong people, it can be dangerous. Suddenly you’re taking on thoughts from a stranger who has no real idea about the work you do and what it takes to overcome the challenges you’re facing.

Doing what helps

It’s strange how sometimes you can find yourself resisting the very thing that you know will help.

Maybe, it’s because it feels like too much effort or maybe you’ve forgotten how much it might benefit you.

It could be something as simple as going for a walk when you’re feeling down. Perhaps, the thought of putting on proper clothes, doing your hair and seeing other people when you’re not at your best is enough to make you think that staying inside is the better option.

But the longer you stay inside the more difficult it’ll be to convince yourself to go outside.

Sometimes even when you know something might help you can’t being yourselves to do it because you’re not in a hopeful mindset. You don’t feel like trying to make things better because in that moment you don’t even believe it’s possible.

But why not do the thing that might help anyway and see how you feel afterwards. It might not make things better but it definitely won’t make things worse.

Useless criticism

If you have something bad to say about something but have nothing to say when it comes to how it could be better. I think that it’s a useless criticism.

It’s easy to be a critic or to complain about the way that something is but what’s the point if you can’t even offer a solution.

It’s far more useful and far more helpful to say ‘I don’t think this works very well but here’s what I think would work better…’, rather than just saying ‘That’s not a good idea’.

I think what a person says comes down to their intention to speaking up. Do you just enjoy complaining or do you want to try and find a way to make things better?

The opportunity to be supported

So often, we’re afraid to be vulnerable and let people know where we’re at. In doing that you miss out on the opportunity to be supported by people that care.

What often ends up happening is you feel frustrated that there is no one to support you, not realising that you haven’t even given them a chance.

The best way to break this habit is to be more open when talking to the people that you know you can trust. Instead of having those Hey, how’s it going? Yeah, good thanks, you? types of conversations make the effort to be a little more vulnerable.

It might feel strange at first but when you talk to the right people they’ll listen to you and show support which is sometimes all you need. Your act of bravery might have a knock on effect because often you find that the other person will start to open up more too.

What to do if your manager isn’t helpful

You might feel frustrated but all is not lost.

In a previous post I wrote about job satisfaction and I thought it might be useful to delve into some practical tips. It’s all good and well telling someone what to do but it’s sometimes helpful to tell them how.

So, let’s say you work in an office and your manager is not much help with anything that you need help with. It could be about the work you do or maybe even career progression etc.

What do you do?

It probably gets frustrating but it’s always useful to remember that you always have options.

First up, ask for what you want/need?

Ask confidently, ask a second time.

Don’t be afraid to call people out (politely) when they don’t follow through after assuring you that they’d do xyz.

If you feel like it’s not working, ask someone else.

Chances are even though a manager is their as a main point of call, there’ll be someone else that can help you and someone else that will.

Lastly don’t expect too much from people.

Yes, ask for help when you need it but don’t be reliant on others to drive your ship,  they have their own stuff to do too.