This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
A very close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This means I’ve gotten a closer look than ever before at what it’s like to be a cancer patient—someone on the receiving end of a lot of well-meaning (and misguided) gestures, among myriad other challenges. And while it may seem like an odd or inappropriate link to make, cancer offers valuable communication lessons for anyone who’s in the relationship business.
The experience with my friend made me remember a series of distinctive greeting cards I once read about. They were developed by Emily McDowell, an artist and cancer survivor, who recognized a need for “better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering” from her own experience of isolation when friends and family either disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said exactly the wrong thing unintentionally.
The cards are brilliant. They say things like:
Themes: levity, honesty, and genuine empathy.
What a great template for anyone looking for better and more authentic ways to communicate, period.
This week, focus on being empathic in all your interactions. Stop to show you’re really tuned in to what people are saying (both the words and the “music”) before you ask your next question or make your next comment. See what happens if you’re also willing to take a risk and be real while you’re at it.
Talk to you soon.
P.S. My friend’s prognosis is excellent.