“Well Fanie, that’s life.”

I was told after, at the age of 11, I watched a car run over a cat on a highway by a car. (Just for some background context this was in a rural area in Southern Greece back in the 90’s).

Thanks! I feel much better. Right?!!!

What a way to totally devaluate and disregard any acknowledgement of someone’s experience. Sometimes silence (actually often) silence can feel more empathetic than words.

This statement, “well, that’s life!”,  wins a gold medal in my world as the least empathetic statement….EVER!

If you ever meet me, you now know what not to say lol.  It’s ok, I can emotionally regulate this now and I am and take responsibility for my reaction. But there are better things to say:).

This statement was however a motto in my childhood upbringing. Ok. I’ll admit it. It’s still kicking around. But that’s life, right?

Now don’t get me wrong. Sure there were times this statement came in, and does come in, handy and appropriate. For example, when I encounter what I interpret to be an external disturbance outside of my sphere of control or influence, then “that’s life” might help me learn how to react to uncertainty, accept and adapt to hardships or my current situation, and things that are not within my control. So yes,  I acknowledge that there might me a time and place for this statement.

Looking back too, this repeated family motto was/ is perhaps with good intent .I do believe it was my caregiver’s way of providing comfort in times of frustration and distress. Maybe it was all they knew. A child then, it was a tad rough, but as an adult now, I know that I am responsible for how I receive and react to this statement.

AND….it was also what inspired me to become a Life Coach. Here’s how:

Whenever I would hear this statement, I remember making the following interpretations:

“No, that’s not life, that’s how you experience YOUR life, and definitely not the way I want to experience mine”
“If that statement were true then you are suggesting I am powerless and have no choice. That is also not true.” (Unless one lives in an eternal locus of control)

Years later (of inner work and undoing particular habitual thinking patterns and endless daily practicing of emotional self regulation) I became a Life Coach.

I now work with client’s in several areas pertaining to EQ (self and social awareness, empathy, connection, regulation, management, motivation, social skills, etc.) and I wanted to emphasize the importance of 1 of the components of  Emotional Intelligence:

Developing and practicing empathy (yes, it is a skill that can be learned! ). This includes acknowledging, validating and not judging. Holding space for others, listening and doing your best to understand things from their perspective and see and feel what they might be experiencing.

I thought a fun exercise to explore the verbal expression of  empathy and enhancing your skill set is to bring awareness to some not-so empathetic statements.

Empathy, and expressing empathy, is imperative for both intra and interpersonal relationships.

*Please note that empathy can be expressed in non-verbal ways but for the purposes of this article, I am sticking to verbally communicated empathetic statements.

So whether you want to enhance your empathy skills or work on your reaction when you feel others are not providing you with the empathy you need, perhaps this list of “least empathetic statements” can help us all relate and connect to each other better!

So, I’d like to know about your experiences!

Here are some additional questions for thought:

What are some of the least empathetic statements,  that you hear or have heard?

What are some of the most empathetic statements you have heard?

How did they affect you?
Do you practice self-empathy? What might be an example of an empathetic statement you’d like to hear someone say to you? Can you say it to yourself?
Who is on your Empathy Team (support system that gives you the empathy you need, and deserve).
How can you use empathetic statements for your own personal development and enhancing your EQ? In the workplace? Relationships?
And what about your level of empathy? Do you find yourself struggling to be empathetic? Is this something you would like to work on?

Now for a list of what NOT to say if you are trying to be empathetic and express empathy:

1. Well at least…..
2. I’ve heard of way worse..
3. You should be lucky that…..

Your turn. I’m sure you can come up with a few….

Have a fun reflection and I look forward to hearing your experiences with unempathetic statements.