I have been a huge fan of Emily McDowell’s empathy cards over recent years – and have, unfortunately, had cause to send them to a number of friends who’ve been going through tough times. I then saw that Emily had written a book – along with her friend Kelsey Crowe – the title being pretty self explanatory!
I read the Amazon blurb and thought I’d pre order it for my Kindle some months ago.
“The creator of the viral hit “Empathy Cards” teams up with a compassion expert to produce a visually stunning and groundbreaking illustrated guide to help you increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to offer comfort and support when someone you know is in pain.
When someone you know is hurting, you want to let her know that you care. But many people don’t know what words to use—or are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This thoughtful, instructive guide, from empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting card maverick Emily McDowell, blends well-researched, actionable advice with the no-nonsense humor and the signature illustration style of McDowell’s immensely popular Empathy Cards, to help you feel confident in connecting with anyone experiencing grief, loss, illness, or any other difficult situation.
Written in a how-to, relatable, we’ve-all-been-that-deer-in-the-headlights kind of way, There Is No Good Card for This isn’t a spiritual treatise on how to make you a better person or a scientific argument about why compassion matters. It is a helpful illustrated guide to effective compassion that takes you, step by step by step, past the paralysis of thinking about someone in a difficult time to actually doing something (or nothing) with good judgment instead of fear.
There Is No Good Card for This features workbook exercises, sample dialogs, and real-life examples from Dr. Crowe’s research, including her popular “Empathy Bootcamps” that give people tools for building relationships when it really counts. Whether it’s a coworker whose mother has died, a neighbor whose husband has been in a car accident, or a friend who is seriously ill, There Is No Good Card for This teaches you how to be the best friend you can be to someone in need.”
I would like to think that I’m pretty empathetic anyway. My husband would probably say you can forget the ’em’ with the amount I get upset about the situations friends and relatives find themselves in. But I have sent cards (Ms McDowell’s, obviously!) / made meals (in fact my sausage casserole – or rather one of the sausage casseroles from this cookbook – is now known as the village ‘cancer casserole’) / helped out with childcare and other jobs – but still, it’s so hard to know what to say and do when family / friends / acquaintances are going through a tough time.
Then between pre ordering this, and it arriving on my Kindle, my Aunt and one of my best friends were diagnosed with cancer. Rubbish. So the book had even more resonance when I started to read it.
Now I should hold my hands up at this point and make a confession – the first chapter has quite a lot of activities to do that seem quite ‘American’ and in true British style (and because I was reading it in bed without a pen and paper and burning materials to hand) I kind of skipped over the activities (although read it thoroughly). Maybe I should head back to them at some point………
A good chunk of it was about being a good listener – and it really made me stop and think. I do listen – but I’m often also over processing at the same time and thinking about what I should respond. I’m definitely planning for more silences in the future (in a good way!)
Another thing that resonated with me was about the Empathy Menu. Saying that there are loads of different roles that you can fulfill when helping someone through a crisis – and you don’t have to personally do all of them. I am a control freak, who likes to try and be all things to all things people. I don’t need to be. And I need to ‘put my own oxygen mask on first’. Definite learning points for Libby! It also reminded me of the empathy card I gave to my friend last week:
As she got to the bit that said ‘cleaning your place’ she laughed out loud and pointed out that she was the one with breast cancer, and I didn’t need to have a personality transplant – but then when she opened it I’d added the caveat inside that I’d send a cleaner round not do it myself!! #thethoughtthatcounts
Another thing that resonated was offering to help people. As the book pointed out a generic ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’ whilst great in principle – is often not the most helpful thing. People going through a crisis don’t need to be worrying about what you could do for them. You just need to do something. I recall a friend whose son died last year saying exactly that – her brain was too full of what her child was going through to worry who could make what meal etc. And when I had a much less significant crisis last summer when my husband hurt his thumb lots of people said ‘let us know if there’s anything we can do?’ – but she just said ‘I’m coming round now to tidy up for you’ and took charge, with my sister, of clearing up the empties (there were a lot!) and the general state of the house whilst I was at the hospital with my husband in surgery.
The book says it takes a whole village to care. I am so pleased that the village we live in is so caring. It seems to have had a run of crises over recent years – but every time, we villagers strap on our big girl pants and help each other out. It makes me proud to call this little part of Worcestershire home.
I would recommend this book to anyone – in fact I’d quite like to email the link to certain people, but they may not take it as it’s intended (or they may take it as intended and be offended!) – but most definitely worth a read.
Let’s just hope we don’t have too many more situations to apply it to in 2017……………