Hurt can come from many sources, such as the end of a relationship or the loss of someone's life, and offering sympathy can ease people's pain. According to Lauren Wispe, author of "The Psychology of Sympathy," true sympathy is the altruistic awareness of others' emotions. Sympathy is also what she considers to be nonspecific, so it can encompass many acts. However you choose to exercise it, though, sympathy is a worthwhile tool in connecting with others and giving them relief.
1. Share Your Story
If you have a similar story about being hurt, share it to help people feel less alone. Shared stories build solidarity -- when people hear about you being in a similar situation, they may feel better about their circumstances. You also build a connection with them, which can buffer against things like depression. Do not feel compelled to provide a detailed story; you do not need an extensive tale to demonstrate your caring for people who are hurting.
2. Assess Emotional Needs
People who are hurting may need an outlet to talk about their feelings, providing an opportunity for you to show sympathy. Ask them if they need to talk about their feelings, demonstrating that you are willing to listen. Do not pressure them to talk. Let them go at their own pace and accept if they do not want to talk. Ask how they'd like you to be present for them and to what extent. Be open to what is said, and respond in a manner that is respectful and appropriate.
3. Offer Support
Support as a form of sympathy can be expressed in many different ways. Letting people know that they are in your thoughts shows them that you care enough to devote time to think about them. You can also offer to do things for them, such as simple house chores, if their hurt is eliciting a lack of motivation. Let them know that you are able to provide help in whatever way you can -- this will ease their load and reduce the impact of their pain.
4. Things To Avoid
When showing sympathy to others who are hurting, there are certain things to avoid. Do not assume that you know how they are feelings -- it may seem inconsiderate or presumptuous. Avoid cliche expressions such as "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Do not put a timestamp on people's pain -- if you say their pain will be over quickly and it isn't, it can exacerbate their pain. Showing sympathy can be done in many ways, but approach with caution.
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