Support: Empathy Vs Advice

Support Vs. Advice

Please keep in mind while reading this, it is meant as my observation only, and with the utmost respect for the groups I am a part of, both in the world of Google+ and Facebook (does Myspace even exist anymore???)

I have heard that men generally are inclined to give advice, and want advice, whereas women tend to prefer empathy, to give and receive.  I have to say this must be changing.  I have recently noticed that when women share their concerns in a group of supportive friends, the female responders are really split down the middle.  Some provide words of encouragement, while others provide advice.  As this goes on, I’ve noticed, there is sometimes blow back to these responses.  Sometimes the initial post was to seek understanding and empathy, and the advice is considered, to be cold or bossy (I don’t come here to be told what to do).  Sometimes, the poster says something about how much they appreciate the advice (Thanks, I never would have thought of that!).

The results are pretty much the same for men.  Some guys tend to respond with an “I feel your pain” response, while others tend to respond with a more “try this and you’ll get results” approach.  I will say the only real difference I noticed between genders is that men tend to be more direct with their response, either empathetic or advisory.

I also see, in this, a negative response from time to time (again, “I don’t come here to be told what to do”).  Generally the outcome is a general agreement, or a post from an admin stating that the purpose of the group is for support and understanding, and not to give advice unless it’s requested.

See?  Mild.  That was it.

I’m a strong proponent of not identifying a problem unless you’re willing to suggest or accept a solution. Here’s I’ve presented a problem (the lack of clarity regarding what support really is: Empathy, or advice).

My Solution: Compromise.

It’s a two-way street, this Compromise.  Here’s how it works.

northbound:  If you are going to offer advice when someone is down, or has a problem or concern and are unclear in what kind of support they need, offer some empathy with it.  “That must be awful” or ” I can’t imagine what that might be like” or even ” I’ve totally been there!” before going into your suggested action.  This will add warmth to your comment, and make it seem less like a nagging parent.

Southbound: If you post something in a support group, and don’t specify what TYPE of support you need or want, be willing to expect whatever comes your way, as long as it’s provided in a positive light (which, if my last paragraph is followed, will always be the case).

Finally, ( again I say this with nothing but respect for anyone who reads this or whomever it may apply to) it is unfair to come into a support group, express your angst, pain, joy, etc., and reject any reply said in a positive manner, be it advice or empathy.  These are both types of support, and some people really can’t control what kind of support they provide, being compelled to be naturally empathetic or advisory.

The most common thing I see happen is people misinterpreting the word Support to mean Empathy.  These are somewhat synonymous, however Support is broader.  It’s like a Square is a Rectangle but a Rectangle is not always a square.  Empathy is always supportive, but Support is not limited to, and doesn’t have to be, empathy.

So, whether you are a man, woman, squirrel, chicken, warrior, pacifist, remember that the interpretation of events is not always absolute.  Be clear in what your needs are, otherwise be accepting of positive response, regardless of type.  Keep your responses empathetic, whether you are an advice person or not, to minimize misinterpretation and to maximize appreciation.


Read the original HERE.


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