Examples of non-empathy

These examples suppose that your friend has offered you a chance to give her empathy – by making a complaint! In each example your friend’s statement is followed by a number of less than empathic responses.

1: “I wish my housemate would clear up after himself!”

advising: “Why not just leave a big mess for him one day, then he’ll know what it’s like?”
analysing: “Hmm.. is that he is always in a rush, or is that you’re more fussy than he is?”
comparing: “You should meet my husband, he’s far worse!”
correcting: “Well to be fair, he usually does, and you’re quite messy yourself!”
counselling: “Are you scared of the conflict there might be if you asked him to be more tidy?
data-gathering: “Is it just in the mornings he doesn’t clear up, or is it all the time?”
diagnosing: “Well, you probably feel like that because your mother kept her kitchen spotless.”
discounting: “It’s not such a big deal, why don’t you just chill out about it?!”
educating: “This always happens when you don’t set clear boundaries with those kinds of people!”
fixing:   “Come out for a drink with me and you’ll forget all about the state of the kitchen!”
reassuring: “Don’t worry, he’ll probably do it tomorrow”.
sympathising: “Yeah, it’s crap isn’t it when someone behaves so unfairly”.

2: “I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills at the end of this month.”

advising: “If I were you, I’d start setting aside some money right now”.
analysing: “What happened is that you never got back on top of things after you had the car repaired last month”.
comparing: “Oh, I’m sure you don’t owe as much as I do!”
correcting: “Well, you’ve had the services, so you can expect to pay for them, can’t you?!”
counselling: “Have you noticed that ‘not knowing’ has been a recurrent theme in your life?”
data-gathering: “Which bills is it that are worrying you the most?”
diagnosing: “That’s because you don’t keep tabs on your income and expenditure!”
discounting: “That’s nothing new, you’re always running out of money!”
educating: “Now you can see why I’m always telling you to be less extravagant!”
fixing:  “It’s fine. I can lend you the money”.
reassuring: “Don’t worry, you’ll manage somehow!”
sympathising: “Oh I’d hate to have such money worries! I feel really sorry for you!”


3: (to the children) “Put those toys away NOW before someone trips over them!”

advising: “They might respond better if you didn’t always shout at them!”
analysing: “I think the problem here is that you haven’t let them play outside today”.
“Oh, your house is a lot tidier than some I could mention!”
correcting: “Children do need to have space to play you know!”
counselling: “Do you have trouble setting boundaries for your children?”
data-gathering: “So, have you had accidents like that in the house before?”
diagnosing: “Are you annnoyed about everything because it’s your time of the month?”
“I don’t see that they’re really that much in the way, are they?!”
educating: “The best thing is to not let them play in the hallway in the first place.”
fixing:   “It’s Ok, I can pick them up for you before I go”.
reassuring: “Don’t worry, if they fall over they won’t really hurt themselves much”.
sympathising: “Oh, it’s so annoying when they don’t think of others, isn’t it!”

4: “I’m not getting the connection I want with Simon”

advising: “I think you should write him a letter and put all your concerns down on paper.”
analysing: “Did things start to go wrong after his mother died?”
“It’s the same with John, it’s impossible to get him to talk about anything!”
correcting: “I think you have a very good connection, you have lots of laughs together.”
counselling: “Perhaps you don’t know how to stick up for your needs in a relationship?”
data-gathering: “Is it when you’re at home or on vacation that this happens?”
diagnosing: “The problem is that you haven’t clearly defined what kind of a relationship you are having”.
discounting: “He’s a man, for God’s sake, what do you expect?!”
educating: “Well, you know the best way to get connection is to use NVC!”
fixing:  “I can talk to him if you like, he’s my mate after all”.
reassuring: “Hang in there, things will get better once he feel secure in his new job”.
 “Oh I know just how you feel, it’s horrible to be let down like that!”

note for my fellow NVC-word-nerds: There are many possible ways of categorising non-empathy! For this set of examples, I have separated analysis from diagnosis, but have included pitying with sympathising and consoling with reassuring.