When someone is expressing sadness, stress or grief over problems in their life it can be difficult to know how to respond. Truth is there are many ways you can respond, and it’s not always possible to know what the right way is. In one situation a person may need to have an empathetic ear, while other times they may need to be told nicely that they need to begin to pick themselves up. No matter what response is appropriate, it will require honest compassion. This highly touted spiritual trait isn’t something that comes easily. A simple, “I’m sorry for what your experiencing” without emotion is probably not enough if it is someone close to you. Compassion is empathy for other people’s suffering. Empathy takes understanding. Questions can help bring answers.
So what types of questions are necessary to build compassion?
What would it be like to be in their situation?
Asking this simple question may give an immediate answer. But sometimes it doesn’t.
Let’s examine the questioning process as if your friend called up crying because her cat died. It was her only pet, and she lives alone. You may love animals, and have first hand experienced the grief of an empty house, after your Siamese cat Pollyanna passed. If you are lucky enough to know what it’s like this question alone is probably enough to cultivate compassion to respond to your friends situation.