A few days ago as I was watching my Instagram stories this graphic showed up talking about toxic positivity from @sitwithwhit.
At first, I was taken aback. Is there such a thing as being TOO positive? When I really thought about it, yes there is. I asked myself, how quickly do I to jump a give a positive statement thinking I am making a problem better instead of being empathetic and feeling with someone? After receiving several messages from friends after I reposted the graphic, I realized am not the only one who struggles with this. I also heard from several people who have been hurt by well-meaning friends and family members dismissing their feelings. The consensus was they really only wanted/needed someone to listen and validate their feelings.
So how do we train ourselves to respond with empathy?
In my opinion, the first step is to listen. I love the graphic above to help with healthy and hopeful responses that fit a lot of situations. If it's not an area where you have experience, it's ok to say “I have no experience with what you are going through but I know it must be difficult for you. I want you to know that I am here for you.” It's not our job to fix our friend's problems, it's our job to listen and support the people we care about while they decide what is their best solution.
What if you don't have a friend who responds with empathy?
It's important to know who you can speak to about certain situations in your life. For instance, there are certain topics I speak to my Mom about and other topics I speak to my sister about based on the response I know I will get. Sometimes it is necessary to speak to someone completely unrelated to the situation so that they can be unbiased in their response to you. I wholeheartedly believe that counseling is a healthy way to work through personal struggles in a safe environment. There is nothing wrong with saying, I need someone to listen.
In conclusion, no one is perfect. This is just something I have been thinking about lately and wanted to share. My hope is that we all can respond with grace to our friends who are hurting and offer hope, not just a positive “fix it” statement. If you would like to read more about how to be thoughtful in your relationships you can read this article and for ways to manage a stressful situation you can read this article!