If you’ve ever watched the iconic TV show with James Lipton called Inside the Actor’s Studio, you know all too well the notorious question he asks during each interview:
“What’s your favorite word?”
I used to wonder what MY answer would be to this question if I were being interviewed on his show (a gal can dream, right?). Well, after some deep reflection, I think I’ve finally found it.
You see, I coach couples regularly on how to reignite their relationships for greater love, connection, and fulfillment. And the number one insight I offer is so simple, yet incredibly effective:
In every intimate relationship, empathy is the key to relationship success.
Showing your significant other that you have the ability to understand their experience—whether it be hurt, pain, longing, frustration, or something else—and make them feel heard is the greatest gift you can give. It sends the message, “Baby, you understand me.”
So here I am, back in fantasy land…being one of the top actresses of my time, on stage with James Lipton. And I’m not nervous at all as I gear up to answer the long-awaited question of the day. What’s your favorite word?
Here’s a list of empathy statements to have handy at all times. Use these with your partner regularly for a more intimate couple bond.
- You’re making total sense.
- I understand how you feel.
- You must feel so hopeless.
- I just feel such despair in you when you talk about this.
- You’re in a tough spot here.
- I can feel the pain you feel.
- The world needs to stop when you’re in this much pain.
- I wish you didn’t have to go through that.
- I’m on your side here.
- I wish I could have been with you in that moment.
- Oh, wow, that sounds terrible.
- You must feel so helpless.
- That hurts me to hear that.
- I support your position here.
- I totally agree with you.
- You are feeling so trapped!
- You are making total sense.
- That sounds like you felt really disgusted!
- No wonder you’re upset.
- I’d feel the same way you do in your situation.
- I think you’re right.
- I see. Let me summarize: What you’re thinking here is…
- You are in a lot of pain here. I can feel it.
- It would be great to be free of this.
- That must have annoyed you.
- That would make me mad too.
- That sounds infuriating.
- That sounds frustrating.
- That is very scary.
- Well I agree with most of what you’re saying.
- I would have also been disappointed by that.
- That would have hurt my feelings also.
- That would make me sad too.
- POOR BABY!
- Wow, that must have hurt.
- I understand what you’re feeling.
- You are making a lot of sense to me.
- Okay, I think I get it. So what you’re feeling is…
- Let me try to paraphrase and summarize what you’re saying. You’re saying…
- I would have trouble coping with that.
- What I admire most about what you’re doing is…
- That would make me feel insecure.
- That sounds a little frightening.
- Tell me what you see as your choices here.
Which of the above statements really resonate with you? I recommend storing a few of them in your mind so you can offer them to your partner the next time he or she is in need of some empathy.
You’ll be amazed at how much of an impact even a simple empathetic statement can make.
empathy statements taken from The Gottman Institute Relationship Guide