Authentic Empathy and Letting Go Part 2
Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Knowing when to let someone go when they struggle to experience authentic empathy for you.
How do you know it is time to let someone go when they understand you but do not display authentic empathy for you? How do you personally make that decision? Do you let them go the first time they display a lack of authentic empathy for you? How about the second time they display a lack of authentic empathy for you? Does it take days, weeks, months, or years of them showing a lack of authentic empathy for you for you to let them go? Do you never let them go and accept that understanding is enough? How long do you let it go when somebody says they understand you and cannot experience authentic empathy for you?
I once dated a woman who said she understood me. When we had the ‘downs’ in our relationship, she would make it a point to tell me how much time she spent working to understand me. That made me feel good and special at the time. Someone who is willing to work to understand you is someone willing to put the work in to make a relationship great. What I did not realize until much later was that, while she spent the time trying to understand me, what I really needed was for her to spend time working to experience authentic empathy for me.
One time, I was trying to trim the grass before we left the house for the day. I was using a string trimmer that had just run out of line. If you have ever tried to rewind the line on a string trimmer, you know how frustrating it can be to get it right. To make matters worse, we were under a time crunch and it was the first time I wound string on this spool. This put extra pressure on me to get things done quickly. Also, because the string needed to be wound in a certain direction and there were no markings on the spool, it was challenging to say the least.
When she saw I was having trouble, she suggested I read the manual. In one respect, she made the right suggestion. Reading the manual would have reduced my frustration about the string. Because she understood me, she knew that, if my frustration were reduced, I would be able to take some of the pressure off myself. If we had known about the concept of authentic empathy at the time and shown authentic empathy for each other, the situation would have turned out differently. Either her suggestion would have been different, or my reaction would have been different to her suggestion.
If she had been able to experience authentic empathy for me, she would have known that the frustration I was feeling was coming from a place of fear. Fear that if I could not figure out things like this, she would eventually leave me because that is what other people have done. Fear that my inability to do things would lead to her loving me less. Experiencing authentic empathy for me in that situation would mean saying something more comforting to alleviate my fears.
If I had been able to experience more authentic empathy for her, I would not have been annoyed with her suggesting I read the instructions. I would have known that she felt proud when she could help me. I would have known that she was happy to help me. I would have smiled at her and thanked her for pointing out that we still had the manual. I would have expressed myself better and told her I was worried about the time. I would have opened the manual, read the instructions, and got the job done quicker.
Over time, the lack of authentic empathy in situations like this led to misunderstandings. These misunderstandings led to frustrations. These frustrations led to arguments. These arguments chipped away at our relationship and our connection. The intermittent lack of authentic empathy turned our understanding of each other into misunderstanding. To our credit (or some may say detriment), we kept trying and kept working at understanding each other until we came to the realization that we were better off letting each other go. The reason we focused on understanding and not authentic empathy is because, at the time, we did not realize it was the intermittent lack of authentic empathy that frustrated us.
Feeling misunderstood by someone, especially someone you love, is a terrible feeling. Feeling that someone you love understands you and does not or cannot experience authentic empathy for you is even worse. This is because authentic empathy goes deeper than understanding. The stress and negative emotions that crop up when someone feels that they understand you and you feel they are not showing you authentic empathy, can signal an end to a friendship or a relationship. When a person’s lack of authentic empathy starts to negatively affect you mentally and you cannot push through it, then I invite you to consider that it is time to let that person go.
One’s ultimate desire is for people to experience authentic empathy for us.
How this applies to fear…
When it comes to fear and letting someone go who struggles to show us authentic empathy, many of us fear that we will regret letting the person go. We make excuses for keeping them in our lives. To work through this fear, we need to realize the truth in the old saying; when one door closes another one opens. As we move on from the people who negatively affect us, we open our hearts and lives and make room for the people who will positively impact us.
How this applies to WACASHWI…
When it comes to WACASHWI and letting someone go who struggles to show you authentic empathy, the people you keep in your life will influence you along your journey. If you keep people who struggle to experience authentic empathy for you, they will have a negative influence on your journey. You will spend time getting them to experience authentic empathy for you that you could be spending pushing your journey forward. I invite you to work to understand when your efforts to get someone to experience authentic empathy for you are a net-positive in your life and when they are a net-negative. For the times when people are a net-positive in your life, work to help them experience authentic empathy for you. For the times when people are a net-negative in your life, I invite you to consider lovingly letting them go.
Your daily invitations…
- I invite you to think about someone in your life that you do not feel experiences authentic empathy for you.
- I invite you to consider what you can do to make things better.
- I invite you to write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions in your journal.
- I invite you to talk to the person you are thinking about and discuss how you are feeling and see what can be done.
Final step – how will you implement one thing you learned today in your life?