Wednesday, April 19, 2006

~ Can You Listen? ~

Can you listen--REALLY listen? by Roberta IsraeloffFrom Woman's Day

My in-laws had just returned from a harrowing drive back to New York City after wintering in Florida. "The first time the car broke down we were somewhere in North Carolina," my mother-in-law told me over the phone. "We had it fixed, and then it stalled again in Delaware. But the worst was on the Verrazano Bridge during rush hour. It seemed as if we'd never get home."
"That sounds horrible," I said, ready to launch into my own horror story--a car that conked out at 9:30 p.m. in a deserted mall parking lot.

But someone knocked at her door, so she had to say good-bye. "Thank you for listening," she added, "but thank you most of all for not telling me your worst car story."
My cheeks burning, I hung up. In the days ahead I found myself thinking about the wisdom of her parting words.
I can't count the number of times I've begun to complain--about a fight with my son, a professional disappointment or even car problems--only to have my friend cut me off with "The same thing just happened to me."

Suddenly we're talking about "her" ungrateful kid, "her" lousy boss, "her" leaky fuel line. And I'm left nodding my head in all the right places, wondering if we haven't all come down with a bad case of emotional attention deficit disorder.
It's easy to see how this version of empathy--"I know just how you feel and I can prove it"--gets confused with the real thing. Nothing's more natural than trying to soothe an overwrought friend with assurances that she's not alone.

But calamities resemble one another only from afar; up close they're as unique as fingerprints. Your friend's husband may have been downsized out of a job, just like your own, but no two families have identical bank accounts, severance packages or backup plans.

Saying "I feel your pain" also can be a prelude to offering advice "Here's what I did, and here's what you should do." But when a car trip takes three times as long as it should, or your child runs a high fever in the middle of the night, do you really want to hear how your friend coped with a similar situation?
What we all hope for when we're feeling low or agitated or wildly happy is to find a friend who sounds as if she has all the time in the world to listen. This ability to be with someone in her pain or happiness is the cornerstone of genuine empathy.

Fortunately, empathy is eminently easy to learn. Ever since the conversation with my mother-in-law, for example, I've squelched my impulse to interrupt a friend when she confides in me. I'm learning to follow the other person's lead, paying attention to body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and what is left unsaid.
I'm also more likely to recognize and appreciate empathy when I'm the beneficiary. The other day I called a friend to complain that I was feeling nervous and couldn't concentrate. "Want to tell me about it?" she offered. So I rambled on for a while.

Finally, I thanked her for listening, and asked how "she" was feeling.
"We can talk about me tomorrow," she said. Now that's empathy.
We don't always want answers or advice. Sometimes we just want company.

~ Self Esteem ~

  • Esteem is a fancy word for thinking that someone or something is important or valuing that person or thing, and self means you. When you put them together self esteem means how much you value yourself and how important you think you are. It’s like quietly knowing that you’re worth a lot.

  • Having a good self esteem is important because it helps you hold your head high and feel proud of yourself and what you can do. It also helps you to make good choices about your mind and body. If you have a good self esteem, you value your safety, your feelings, your health, your whole self! You know that every part of you is worth caring for and protecting.

    ~ Improving Self Esteem ~

    Avoiding the Negative:
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Tell the critical voices of friends and family that are shouting in your head to stop.
  • Do not let anyone, including yourself, put you down.
  • Start saying the word “no”
  • Don’t try to change others.

    Accentuate the Positive:
  • Make a list of your achievements.
  • Make a list of your positive inner qualities.
  • Take pride in your appearance, when you put an effort into how you look you feel better and it shows.
  • Exercise. When you exercise your body releases endorphins that actually help you feel better. It is an all natural high.
  • Seek out people that make you feel good.
  • Be your own best friend.

    So take it one step at a time and remember to be patient with yourself change takes time and work.

    ~ Self Care ~

    It is important to take time out of each day for yourself. Set some time aside for you to focus on what makes you feel good and relaxed. This is so important to keep you healthy, grounded and able to care for yourself and others.

    Here are some suggestions for healthy self care:
  • walking or hiking
  • Reading
  • writing in a journal
  • Bubble bath
  • working up a sweat at the gym
  • Manicure/pedicure
  • puzzles
  • Spending time with people that believe in you and truly want to see you succeed