Etiquette of Empathy

Neuroscience News



A friend of mine recently lost a parent and someone, in a ridiculous attempt to make light of the news, said, “I heard you killed your mother”.

It was shocking to say the least.

This is a common way of offering humour-encased sympathy I would later learn.

Well, there are dos and don’ts when it comes to offering empathy to mourners.

Please don’t ask, ‘What can I do for you?’ Just go ahead and do what is apparently required- buy tissue, make a call, whatever.

Avoid early humour, like the person I mentioned earlier. Early humour is insensitive, tasteless and unsympathetic.

Empathy is preferable to pity- pity speaks of hopelessness but empathy is understanding.

It’s okay if not essential for the mourners to have moments of privacy where they can really express emotions because try as you may, you do not exactly understand the depth, height, weight or form of their sadness.

It is also a good time to indulge the mourners; let them have their way where it’s not harmful.

Do not say ‘Don’t cry.’

Tears are inevitable elements of sad situations; telling a mourner not to cry is like expecting a cut not to bleed. Like blood, the tears will flow; they just need to be mopped up.

Instead, tell them ‘It’s going to be okay’, ‘Take heart’, ‘My thoughts/ prayers are with you at this time’

Beware of talkativeness though, it is seldom required.




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