In the process of supporting our loved ones, it is easy to move from being supportive to being dismissive without realizing it. Maybe you have run out of things to say that may be supportive and do not know how else to help.
Being dismissive minimizes the value of what your loved one has said and felt. But, it does not always come from a place of not caring. It can look as simple as what we think is supportive; “It will all be fine…You worry too much; take a break…That person is not worth your time…You didn’t think that would be helpful before…” These things can tell your loved one that their fears, concerns, and hurt are unnecessary but simply confuse the fact that those feelings already exist.
Support can be offered in many ways. Most often, you will find that your loved ones simply need to feel heard. You may not have to say anything! Think about the times when you have truly felt heard. How can you pass that feeling along?
- Make eye contact
- Paraphrase what they’ve said
- Ask for clarification if you’ve misunderstood
- Simple gestures, like a nod, let them know you’re still listening
Empathy and validation let others know that their feelings and thoughts are acceptable and you can appreciate why they feel that way, even if you may feel differently about the same situation.
Other times, your presence may be more than enough. We have this sense of urgency to fill the voice when there is an uncomfortable silence. But when a loved one is hurting, they may just need that silence to process their thoughts and feelings, with your supportive presence.