I have a promise to make to you. An declaration of sorts. An oath of empathy, an offer to meet you where you are right now.

When I approach my friend and colleague Kate McCombs with an issue, she asks me a simple yet powerful question: Would you like empathy or strategy?

Empathy or Strategy

We live in a fix-it culture. Are you fat? We’ve got a surgery for that. Broke? Check out this guaranteed path to getting rich quick. Have health issues? Eat more kale. We’ve gotta have answers to the problems in other people’s lives because we’ve gotta believe there is a way we can make everything better in our own.

But sometimes the best way to make something better is to stop trying to fix it.

Sometimes the best advice you can give is no advice at all.

Most of the time, when friends, colleagues, strangers, or family members approach us, they’re just needing someone to be a sounding board as they talk through an issue they’re trying to solve on their own.

What most people need is someone to give them empathy, to meet them where they are and sit with them in that uncomfortable place of uncertainty until they’re ready to leave it.

After my brother died, the side effects of my grief varied greatly and appeared in many forms, from self-destructive behavior, to Type A style overachieving, to clingy codependency in my relationship, to mania. Throughout it all, I’ve paid particular attention to the people who needed to fix me. They were always the ones who came, declared their answer loudly, and left, upset with me that I didn’t take their guaranteed solution to all of my problems.

Anyone who has met me knows I never take the traditional path and I’m rarely on someone else’s schedule. I get to my destination, in my own way, on my own time.

The friends that truly made a difference truly SAW me, actually HEARD me, and completely loved ME. They met me on my path and made space for MY journey. They did not try to make it their journey.

They were never the ones to tell me to move on. They never said I was dwelling. They would never dream of using the phrase “man up.” They let go of their expectations of me and allowed me to have expectations of myself. They never expected me to be anywhere but here, anyone but myself. In that acceptance of who I am and where I am, they helped save me.

And when it was time for me to rise out of the darkness, they held their hand out for me and together we danced in the sunlight, making plans for my bright future.

These people taught me what empathy truly is – simultaneously holding space for rising and falling.

I’ve been craving one-on-one interaction with my readers lately, so I’m ramping up my coaching programs and building some exciting online coaching courses* which will allow people of all financial levels to access my services. As I do this, I keep asking myself what kind of influencer I want to be.

Do I want to kick people’s ass and whip them into shape? Nah, I’m too much of a softy to be a drill sergeant.

Do I want to hold people’s hands while they cry and help them heal from their past problems? Not really. I’m not a therapist and while I think it’s important to know where you come from, I’m more interested in helping people figure out where they are now and where they want to go next.

I want to be the person who meets people where they are, says “I see you, right here, right now, and you are gorgeous inside and out. You don’t need to change, you don’t need to move. But when you’re ready, I’d like to sit with you and think about where you want to go when you leave this place. And when you’re strong enough to start that journey, I’ll hold your hand, pull you out of the darkness, and dance with you in the light.”

That’s the influence I want to have, that’s the coach I want to be: the empathetic kind.

I want to be the person who holds space for both the rising and the falling in your life, and helps you see both as equally important on your journey forward.

To hold me to this, I made an oath to stand by, a declaration of what I will and will not do. Here it is:

 

The Empathy Oath

I will not tell you to get over it.

I will not tell you to move on.

I will not tell you to suck it up, stop sulking, get out of bed.

I will not use the phrase “man up.”

I will not say you are overreacting. I will not use sensitive as an insult. When you are sad and crying and full of despair, I will not point out how much easier you have it than others.

Instead, I will meet you where you are. I will sit with you in that place, even if it is uncomfortable. I will give you empathy until you ask for advice.

When the time is right for strategy, I will provide it with enthusiasm. With all of my brain, heart and soul, I will help you decide where you want to go from here, help you up out of the darkness, and hold your hand as you rise. I will offer insight and inspiration, pointing out destinations that I’ve heard are nice, but I will always follow your lead, because I am only ever a guest traveler on your road, a supportive witness to your journey. 

This is my empathy oath to the world. This is my promise to you.

Take the Empathy Oath yourself! Spread some empathetic love.

Empathy Oath2

 

How can you hold more space for both the rising and the falling in your own journey? Let me know in the comments below.

*I’m opening up individual coaching slots and launching three online coaching courses in August. First spots will go to those on my mailing list, so sign-up below to make sure you get your spot.

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