"Therefore the great mediator of any community is human morality." Armstrong Williams

Empathy is by far my strongest characteristic and ability. It allows me to understand other people's emotions, perspectives, and rationales, and to respond accordingly. I can quickly pull out of my emotional repertoire the full gamut of feelings to almost perfectly match  those of others around me. In doing so, I get to provide a substantive support for those around me. Meanwhile I am left to deal with the ramifications of taking on the emotions of other people. I'm left alone in the aftermath, exhausted, drained, and emotionally overdrafted. Most of the time I'm able to replenish and recuperate, but there are times where I am emotionally taxed beyond my capacity and in showing up in extraordinary ways for others put myself in danger. When I am listening, striving to understand, reflecting, asking questions, giving guidance, or just being present with other people I have learned to prioritize them in those moments. It's not about me, how I am impacted, or how am I experiencing what is going on. I am immensely grateful that I can access that sense of selflessness in choosing to let others do or say what they need, move them from a place of high emotion to some semblance of stability, or alleviate a situation. What remains after they have departed, taken from me, withdrawn from my bank of emotional energy, is me, alone, left to pick myself back up, do what I need to do to be reimbursed. I'm left to deal with the fallout.

Everything we do either gives people energy or takes it away. All our interactions, our words, the way we touch, communicate, and so on - they all give others energy or drain some. I don't think we spend enough time thinking about how we're impacting other people. I think we oftentimes get so caught up in the intricacies of our own lives that we are oblivious to the ways that we're affecting others. If we slowed down, paid more attention, and we more purposeful in our interactions we could notice how we're influencing others, and strive to make our touch point one of benevolence, as often as we are able. Do we stop to think about how the way we're behaving, what we're saying, or how we're communicating will affect others? Do we just barrel through people's lives, especially those we care about, dump our feelings on them, and peel off? Do we check on them later after we're done venting, or just assume they'll be fine after we've run them ragged with all our heaviness? Draining energy is only fair if we're willing to replenish it.

I love giving to others. It brings me immense joy to be able to put time, effort, energy, thought, etc. into someone else, and for them to recognize that there was a cost for me involved. I don't do it for the recognition or the gratitude, but the acknowledgement remains significant for me. I don't expect or require that people reciprocate. I don't even necessarily want people to check on me in return; I think I want people to be more pensive about how thoughtful they're being. I just want people to think of other people more, and how they are demonstrating empathy, compassion, and kindness towards them. It's easier to be angry, to hurt, or to harm. It's harder to be kind, especially when others are not kind to us. Showing kindness particularly in the face of adversity is powerful. I want people to respond with kindness so that there's less to do, less to sort through, and less to heal.

Different people play different roles in our lives, and we in turn hold various roles depending on who is casting. And I believe many of us are typecast. When people find out or see you use a particular skillset, that becomes your identity to them. I am the mediator, the peacekeeper, the confidant, and the fixer. That's my natural tendency, to be emotionally available at a moment's notice for whatever someone needs. The danger though in constructing someone's entirety with one defining characteristic or a singular ability is that they lose their three-dimensionality. They become static and flat. They become utilitarian instead of functionally adaptive. They don't get to be whole people to us. Playing the same role in multiple facets of your life can be enervating. Regardless of who I'm with, I seem to be tasked with emotionally regulating others. I'm good at it, and sometimes even thrive in it, but what about the rest of me.? What happens when I'm only called upon to come save the day, to fix things, to repair harm or mend relationships? I become a caricature - a walking advice dispenser instead of a fully fleshed out character. I can't save everyone. That's not my job. That's not my role. I have to be more. I have to be allowed to be dynamic. I can't exist as the bridge to connect others. What about me? What about my needs? What about the fallout that comes after I've been used and disposed of?

I always say check on your checker. Check on the person that checks on you. Who takes care of them when they are in need? That person often plays that supportive role in the lives of multiple people. Checkers are often also mistaken to be unbreakable because they are doing the outreach they themselves don't need any consoling. I say again, check on your checker, and checkers let others check on you. It has to go both ways. We have to be able to muster up the courage to ask for help, and simultaneously have to be ready, willing, and able to accept help as it is offered. We don't get to be mad at people for not checking on us if we don't make it known that we too need help. People can read us, and pick up on clues - or we could just be explicit in saying that we, of all people, need help. We have to be emotionally literate and say specifically what we need. We cannot expect others to read our minds, know what we want, or to know that we're not okay unless we tell them. That is the only definitive way, everything else leaves room to chance. And when others offer aid, we have to grateful for it, and receptive of it. It may not be how we would do it, but we have to validate what people are willing to give us. We can articulate all we want our needs, and its up to them to figure out how to best serve us. We can expect better but know that more often than not, people are doing the best they can. That's significant. People showed up; they reached out - they were present. At least they are here with us; at times that's all we need. Rejecting help because it's imperfect is harsh and repulses others. Nobody checks on the strong friend because they pretend to be invincible. We can be strong but we also have to be vulnerable - how else will others know we are human? X

Phrases to Check-In and Spark Conversation:

  • What's going on for you?
  • Describe what you're experiencing?
  • Tell me more
  • How does that make you feel?
  • Why do you feel that way?
  • It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling
  • What makes you feel better?
  • How can I support you?
  • What do you need right now (and later)?
  • What do you need to move forward/on?
  • I can empathize with you [instead of I understand]
  • I hear you


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