The process of writing a book about telepathy gave me plenty of opportunity to think about how we as humans provide comfort and support to each other. Or not. In my book I treat empathy as a sort of “baby telepathy” in which the truly empathic can feel the pain of another, as they live one step away from reading another’s thoughts.
In real life, we all know people who are kind of like this.Yet even these concerned, caring types don’t always say the right thing. In fact, sometimes they come out with awful responses, in spite of their obvious empathy, and they often expect to be excused because their heart was in the right place. It seems like it’s not always enough to have a caring open heart. Why? I think that even the most empathic people feel the need to express their own fear, anger, and sorrow or just to make observations or share what they know. Being empathetic doesn’t make you any less human.
I was delighted to come across an article in the Los Angeles Times called “How Not to Say the Wrong Thing” by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. It describes an approach for how to share your own observations and feelings in a crisis. It’s called “comfort in, dump out”. Basically you getting out a piece of paper and literally drawing rings around the name of a person having any kind of a crisis. Closer rings then get filled in with the names of those closest to the person: immediate family and best friends. Then, coworkers, friends and acquaintances, and distant family members all go in increasingly distant rings by name or in groups. Finally you put your self in the appropriate ring, whatever it may be. Now, the way to avoid unintended ghastly behavior is to say nothing but comforting things to those inward from you. Period. Nothing more. Just comfort. On the other hand, you can rant and rave, or share your fear or knowledge on the subject involved all you want with those in rings further away than you.
This is brilliant. I really like these people.
I came across this article by way of one of my favorite blogs, called Otrazhenie. Please check out the blog article here. There is a lot of interesting embellishment, and the site is well worth a visit!