Who do you call when you have an experience that makes you feel ashamed or dirty inside? I bet there’s only one or two people you call when you have those moments, despite having lots of close friends. Because sometimes it’s not about how “close” you feel to someone, but how they can handle certain types of emotions.
Have you ever had a bad experience and relayed it to a friend and gotten a reaction like this? “Awh, honey” or “you poor thing.” That’s someone replying to you with more sympathy than empathy. And while your friend is probably well-meaning in their intentions, it can sometimes feel passive-aggressive.
What if we switched our reactions from sympathy (which can sometimes border on pity) to empathy? An empathetic reaction would be more like, “Oh, I remember when that same thing happened to me! I get it.” Or, what if we could try to feel what that experience was like for them? I know I would love it – it would re-fill me and make me feel as though I wasn’t alone in the world. And who doesn’t want that? A small change like that can mean the world to your friend.
Another small change you can make when reacting to a friend is not being the person who says, “Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t so bad,” or “You must be exaggerating.” It takes away from our friend feeling like her experience was authentic and real, when we should support him/her for being so vulnerable.
I know that when I call a friend after a particularly bad time, and they are able to love and support me through both my successes and my struggles, that’s when I know I’ve found a keeper.
Small changes can make for much deeper friendships.