Support, Empathy, Truth

I just don’t know how to act or be around someone who is in emotional stress such as deep anger, sadness, or scare.  As a kid, I wasn’t taught or modeled how to deal with tough emotions.

Normally when my wife is feeling strong emotions I listen but my reaction is to let the storm pass and wait for sunny skies. That response doesn’t feel good for me or for my loved ones. What I end up feeling is afraid, afraid that speaking our pain will make it real and afraid that engaging her in her pain will only add conflict or make the pain worse. So I listen but I retreat, even when I want to show up or know I have a different perspective to add to the situation.

I started using a technique to help me show up the way I want to in these times of emotional stress and after doing this over the past couple months I feel empowered to step up. I am still responsible for deciding how to be present and how to act but I have a framework that guides me.

SET stands for Support, Empathy and Truth.

  • Support – Get clear on how you want to provide support to the person. Then clearly communicate that support. This gives the person a clear understanding of what to expect from you and gives them something tangible to grasp. Example: “I want to support you by taking tomorrow off work so that you can focus on you and not have to worry about the kids.”
  • Empathy – Empathize with their situation by speaking or demonstrating that you understand what they are going through and what they are feeling. Example:  “It sucks that you have to deal with this pain with no clear end in sight.  Trying to care for the kids while in pain is exhausting.  I see you are worn out and scared of how to move forward.”
  • Truth – After speaking support and empathy you can speak the truth you know about the situation or person.  Speaking the truth may be to help the person see the situation in a different view or even to speak to what you know about them or yourself. Example: “You said that you are all alone in this, but the truth is you are not alone.  The truth is you have me to lean on and I’m willing to hold you.”

It has always been important to me that my loved ones feel my support but now I see that supporting them takes more than just my desire to be there.  Real support takes clear action, a willingness to connect at any emotional state, and honesty – even when its difficult. SET has given me confidence to fully engage in supporting my family. At the same time, my loved ones comment on how I have stayed present and engaged with them in tough times.

So try it for yourself. The next time you have a loved one in a difficult emotional place, SET – support them, empathize with them and then speak your truth.

By Greg Hawkins

Greg completed his initial weekend in 2014 and will complete the Two-Year Transformational program this year. He believes in the power of being vulnerable to foster authentic and courageous lives. He is a husband, dad of two girls, yogi, blogger, and is a director at an industrial supply company. His favorite activities are dance parties with his girls, getting outside with his dogs or horse and date nights with his wife.