How to Be an Empathetic Friend

For some, empathy comes naturally, but for many others, empathy can be a trait they struggle with. Some people were born with empathy. A Stony Brook University Study explains 20% of Americans are born with the gift of empathy or the gift of emotional sensitivity to help them feel a stranger’s pain due to their genetic makeup. While the rest of us might have to work a little harder to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Empathy is crucial when helping a friend or a family member cope with a cancer diagnosis especially a DIPG diagnosis.

What is empathy? Everyone talks about it, but let’s break down what it truly is. Empathy is making the extra effort to understand what is going on and understand how someone may be feeling. You are creating a safe space, an open line of communication, and a deeper level of trust. With those three things, people are more likely to turn to you to be a listening ear and share their feelings with you in their dark times.

Before we dive into the do’s and don’ts of empathy, let’s talk about simple ways to be a more empathetic listener and why empathy is important. Lots of times, people will not verbalize their emotions, but you can pick up some clues by observing their body language. Pay close attention to their body movements and facial expressions. Be aware of the tone of their voice as well. Emotional well-being and support are critical to making the battle with cancer slightly more bearable. The more support received, the easier it will be to cope.

The Empathy Dos:

  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Do what you can to alleviate stress
  • Make the extra effort to stay connected with your friend or loved one
  • Be present
  • Let them share the challenges and changes of their new reality

The Empathy Don’ts:

  • Don’t take it personally if they are not as friendly as usual
  • Don’t expect them to do everything they have done in the past
  • Don’t be critical or judgemental
  • Don’t become overbearing and part of the problem

Practice makes perfect when it comes to being empathetic. At the end of the day, practice empathy, treat others how you want to be treated, and keep in touch with your friend or loved one during their hardest battle.

By Lily Abadir

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