Don't Offer your Recipe for Lemonade.

I know people with way too many lemons. 

I know people with way too many lemons who are told they should just make some lemonade. 

And what I've learned is that those words are not helpful. 


There are many people who have bravely shared their stories with me - many that left me speechless. It is an honor to be the recipient of someone's story; to be handed a rich collection of all the moments that shape a person. 

It isn't always easy to respond to someone else's pain - in fact it's often super uncomfortable. Even though we've experienced our own pain, we still struggle to respond to someone else's. 

Our brains are wired to avoid pain - to flee from it as quickly as we can. Unfortunately this means that when someone opens their pain up to us, we often respond in a way that communicates our desire to "fix" or "smooth over" rather than listen. 

But here's the thing,  your friends with too many lemons don't need your recipe for lemonade. 
Empathy doesn't start with "Well, at least...." or  "It could be worse" or "I completely understand".
It begins with a posture of  listening.

Even if you have the best intentions, your attempts to immediately encourage the person or offer help could hurt them or shut the conversation down. When you try to offer a solution before hearing the complexity of the situation, it can make someone feel more isolated and misunderstood. So offer yourself first - listen, show up, ask questions. 

You can offer the phrase, "I don't know what to say, but I'm really glad you're telling me about it" or "It sounds like you're in a really hard space right now, I'd like to hear more". Both of these phrases will show the person that you're available and ready to receive whatever they need to tell you.  


I know people with way too many lemons. 

I hope to become a person that offers to hold the lemons instead of  immediately handing over my recipe for lemonade. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published