Men need empathy, not sympathy, especially when they are emotionally hurting. And every man I know has a long list of hurts. He struggles with them every day. He needs you to feel his hurts with him! That will give him a measure of relief.
Physically be with him, listen to his hurt. And then give him a long, strong hug.
Things to do
- Be physically present with him. Never use social media, including Facebook, etc. They are far from a confidential container. And are also easily misunderstood. The depth of feeling between communicated in person is many times deeper than the best electronic communication.
- Let him do the talking. Facilitate his monologue
- Cry with him as he cries.
- Give him a long, strong hug.
Things to never do
- Point to some happy thing in his life. He is already well aware of all his happy things. But the current hurt has crushed all the happiness out of him. At least for now.
- “One-up” his story. That is telling him about some hurt you have had. A hurt that you think is worse than his current problem. That is probably not how he will see it. He will probably think you are bragging. And nobody likes a braggart.
- Offer suggestions. He has to feel his way out of this. If he asks for a suggestion, then offer him just one or two at the most.
- Be careful not to TELL him what to do! All change is self-change. You can not change him.
Again men need empathy, not sympathy.
Here is an animated short video on the difference between empathy and sympathy.
Empathy feels connection:
- Perspective-taking. So how would you feel if you were the other person? With his background and his experience.
- Staying out of judgment. Just do not rehearse what he did or did not do that got him into this situation.
- Recognizing emotion in others (something I have trouble doing). Try naming his emotion. But do not announce it.
- Feeling WITH people. A good summary of all the above
Sympathy drives disconnection because it:
- Reveals your attitude of superiority.
- Temps you to “one-up” his experience.
- Does not include giving him a long, strong hug.