The fine line between being empathetic or being perceived as being judgemental.

In some instances, there seems to be a fine line between “judging others” and exuding empathy/understanding/compassion. More specifically, we may be exuding understanding/empathy, but the other may receive it as a judgment, and then project reactivity. And so the fire begins…How to deal with this?

3 Response(s)

Seems to me that reactivity is usually about making an ego feel better about itself (sometimes, even at the cost of others). To the extent that I can accept that I do that, I am more able to forgive others for similar unskillful behavior.

So, if I happen to catch my own contraction before things get out of hand, perhaps I could:

  • Begin by not taking the other’s reactivity personally [and avoid the seductive melodrama of playing a ‘victim’ role in my own melodrama]
  • Make it clear that judgment was not intended.
  • If my communication was truly unskillful, then I might publicly ‘own’ that [but without self punishment — judgment divides, forgiveness heals]
  • If I can think of how it might have been done more skillfully, express that

Long ago someone pointed out to me that there is a difference between the kind of ‘helping’ of others that assumes the ‘helpee’ is unable to achieve the desired outcome on their own. The helper assumes a power differential that might actually do more harm than good. Much better is the relationship (actually, partnership) which occurs when someone who already has a goal in mind is engaged by others offering tools and other forms of support.

In the end perhaps what really matters is our intentions. If our intentions are in alignment with heartfelt efforts to model Receptivity, Curiosity, Vulnerability, Sincerity, and Honesty, then I think we’ve done our part in the dance. We can’t control what ‘the Universe’ does with that. I’m pretty sure the full complexity of a world shaped by innumerable chains of causality is beyond our grasp.

 

Responded on February 6, 2017.

Dear Annon,

I find myself interested ( judgements and empathy – so juicy stuff ) but don’t think I understand fully the question. I am wondering, wen you have time, if you would be willing to give an example of a real or imagined situation where this happened with a bit more detail e.g ‘he said -she said’ included so I can better understand your question?

Responded on February 8, 2017.

I am surprised what memory this tapped into for me. I know this woman very well, she was my first high school sweetheart. Later on we found different mates, had kids and at times raised them together. She was an expert at offering advice, wanting to help with other peoples problems. Offering her superior knowledge to deal with anyone’s defects. Thru the years I began to notice that she did not have any long term friendships, and I had a certain insight, that she used this concern for others almost as a shield, never really revealing her own presence. While adopting this caring dialogue she advanced her own self esteem based upon others defective positions, rising above others. Judging or projecting onto the people around us can really discount the equalness we all share. We each have our own space in this entire universe that we inhabit. We do nothing to deserve it, we don’t have to buy it, it comes with being born. And at the basis of difficulty most of us just want to be seen, heard and supported for being just who we are. If I can keep my attention on the equal nature of all us living creatures and feel touched by another’s sharing their presence with me, and just be receptive the fire can remain warming instead of exploding into conflict

Responded on February 19, 2017.