Ep39: Is It Empathy or Hijacking?

empathy hijacking tug of war

One of the ways we form connections with one another is by noticing where our experiences overlap. It’s a wonderful moment when that noticing leads to empathy and intimacy. But just like anything wonderful, there’s a flip side. Our question this episode: when does saying, “I know how you feel” shift from empathy to hijacking?

A recent coaching session inspired me to share a few words on today’s topic of empathy versus hijacking. When it came up in the session, it reinforced something that I learned early in my coach training: clients will come to you with the same challenges you as a coach have dealt with, either in the past or present. It creates a special sort of tension in the coach’s mind; as much as we know that what the client is going through isn’t about us and that sharing our experience might just muddy the waters, we’re human. We will feel an impulse to say, “oh my gosh, I’ve had that happen to me, too” or “I know exactly how you feel.” But we’re trained to check that impulse, and most of the time, it’s the right thing to do. It’s such a big topic, I have an entire presentation on coach self-management. It was just this week, however, when I put two and two together and fully realized that it’s not just coaches or other professionals who listen for a living that would benefit from some self-management strategies.

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