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How can I effectively empathize with people who have had different traumatic experiences than me?

14 Answers
Last Updated: 06/17/2019 at 6:49pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
Moderated by

Jennifer Patterson, LMFT, ATR-BC

Art Therapist

Life can be messy. Sometimes you need a little support to make your way through it. I love to help guide people through their challenges & to find the beauty in our messes.

Top Rated Answers
March 1st, 2015 9:18pm
Effectively empathizing with individuals with different traumatic experiences than me means to listen with respect and compassion. Making sure that I suggest a referral to services that can help them when appropriate.
March 4th, 2015 4:03am
I have learned that while an experience may be different than my own, often times the feelings behind those experiences are the same or similar. If I can relate to a person's feelings, than I find it easier to be supportive.
- Expert in Domestic Violence
April 21st, 2015 7:38am
Understanding pain in general should be enough. It doesn't matter the type of pain, but knowing pain.
May 19th, 2015 1:56am
To effectively empathize with people who have different experiences as you, you have to be open minded and understanding of the different circumstances and try to understand where the individual is coming from.
June 16th, 2015 10:51pm
Tell them that I know they must be going through a very hard time and that I am here to listen to them.
July 13th, 2015 5:36pm
Empathising is just listening and putting yourself in their perspective. You do not have to understand how they feel directly, it is enough to be there to listen and provide support.
August 25th, 2015 8:27pm
The only thing you can really do is just listen and be there for them. A way to empathize is placing yourself in their shoes and imagining how you would feel if you were in their shoes.
September 29th, 2015 8:00am
Although you may not be able to relate directly to a traumatic event that someone else has experienced you can effectively empathize by putting yourself in their situation. Instead of trying to identify with the specific situation, identify with their feelings.
October 25th, 2015 10:00pm
Share about each other. Learn about one another!
February 21st, 2016 5:42am
Hear them out, exchange stories, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Ask questions and express a genuine interest in their experiences.
February 29th, 2016 11:32pm
I find that breaking things down into more basic emotions helps. So maybe you have never been in, say, a car crash. However, you might be able to relate with feeling "scared" or "hurt". You may have never had your sister steal your boyfriend, but you can possibly relate to feelings like"betrayed" or "unwanted". You may have never been exiled in a mountain shack, but you have likely felt "lonely". Hope that helps!
June 18th, 2018 6:29pm
Try to do research, and ask them what the best way you can help them. If they are suffering greatly, refer them to a therapist or doctor
July 3rd, 2018 12:30pm
We are all different but at the time we're all alike. We all sense pain, and happiness and worry and fear. So we can empathize with others who have these feelings.
June 17th, 2019 6:49pm
When it comes to empathizing with other people, it's simply having the ability to understand that this person has suffered in life, rather than the specific thing they have gone through. Effective empathizing is possible through having the ability to understand the pain of another person - and although you may have had different traumatic experiences, you have both gone through something that has caused you trauma as a whole. In the end, what is important is that you find something that you have both got in common such as having trauma and then being empathetic because you both know what it's like to be traumatized.