1. “I’m here. I’m with you.”
Dindinger says that this phrase lets the other person know that they are safe, and they are not alone. “One of the ways our nervous systems regulate is by the closeness of others who are safe,” she adds.
2. “I know a lot of people don’t get it, but I’m here to listen.”
Calling this a “powerful phrase,” Bailey says that this statement is tailored to a moment when someone is expressing a deeply personal experience that you don’t have a connection to.
“A response like this lets them know that you validate their feelings and have openness to learning and listening, without trying to pretend you know exactly what they are feeling,” Bailey says.
3. “Yes, I hear what you’re saying.”
Falling under the category of “active listening,” Dindinger says that this phrase lets the other person know that you are listening and care deeply about what they are saying.
“Empathy expresses caring,” she says.
4. “I understand how irritating and frustrating that experience must have been.”
This phrase, shared by Cassine, lets the other person know that you’re on their level and it’s perfectly okay for them to feel irritated and frustrated by something that’s happened.
5. “I can feel in my own body how heavy this is.”
“When we connect to the felt experience of someone else, this is a beautiful way to express the feeling of connection and solidarity,” Bailey says. She cautions that this phrase should be used with authenticity and when it’s actually true for you.
6. “I can feel what you’re saying in my body.”
As a variation of the previous phrase, Dindinger says that these words let the other person know that you are there and feeling with them. It’s a way to show empathy “by being with their struggles,” Dindinger says.
7. “I’m here to listen.”
Cassine notes that empathetic sayings embody listening, understanding and experiencing what the person is sharing with you, and this phrase does all three of those things, which Cassine says are “important to building trust and empathy with another person.”
8. “I may not actually know how you feel, but I’m here to listen.”
For the understandably tight-lipped friend or loved one who isn’t quite ready to share, pull out this phrase that’s recommended by Cassine. If they aren’t ready to be open with their feelings, simply let them know that you can be a listening ear.
9. “Thank you for trusting me and sharing this with me.”
“This phrase implies that the listener has just been let into the inner sanctuary of trust and vulnerability and that this is a private, confidential, special, sensitive and highly reserved place to be honored and respected,” Dindinger says.
10. “Even if I don’t have a solution for your issue, I’m here to listen.”
Sharing a problem doesn’t always have to lead to a solution. If your loved one just needs to vent or share, Cassine’s statement will do the trick.
11. “If that happened to me, I would be angry/upset/lonely/insert the emotion too.”
Bailey says that labeling the feeling that your friend or family member is experiencing acknowledges the pain of something you haven’t necessarily experienced yourself, but you can at least identify with the feeling.
12. “Yeah, I see what you are navigating.”
Dindinger says, “This phrase tells the other person that you are a witness to what has happened and what they are going through. The position of the witness makes the other person know they are not alone, and again, creates safety and emotional regulation.”
13. “I don’t even know what to say, but I’m so glad you told me.”
Sometimes, when someone has died or a mental health condition has taken hold, the right words might not be there.
“When expressing a difficult thing, sometimes people want to problem solve or take away the pain,” Bailey says. “But that’s not possible, and expressing that you don’t know what to say can be the most genuine way to express empathy, and that even though you don’t have an answer, you still can be present in that moment to hold the emotion without judgment.”
14. “I don’t know what to say, but I’m grateful to know this.”
Here’s another variation of the aforementioned phrase. Dindinger says that when you speak the truth and don’t try to sugarcoat something hard by trying to come up with the perfect thing to say, you are empathizing with how difficult the situation is.
“And your presence with someone when they are going through something hard is often all that is needed,” she says.
15. “Honestly, I would feel the same way if I experienced what you’re going through.”
Cassine believes in this statement, which allows you to get on the same level and empathize with the person who needs your compassion.
16. “I’m here to hold space for all your feelings.”
“These words give permission for a person to show up authentically and gives allowance for all the emotions to be present,” Bailey says.
17. “Give yourself the same care, compassion and grace that you give others.”
If someone is sharing and being hard on themselves, use this phrase and remind them to practice self-care. These words will also reinforce your own empathetic strengths, which Cassine says include a compassionate nature, caring heart and awareness of others’ emotions.
18. “No, no, no, no, no, oh God, no.”
“This phrase lets the other person know how surprised and painful it is to hear this news and that their experience of shock, disbelief and grief is being experienced in you too,” Dindinger says. “And that they are not alone. So much of expressing empathy is communicating that they are not alone.”
19. “Just hearing that makes me mad/sad/etc. I can only imagine what it’s like to experience it.”
Bailey shares this reminder: empathy doesn’t require you to have the exact experience to acknowledge a feeling, “so, identifying what feeling is coming up makes space for the other person to feel seen and heard,” she says.
20. “Your feelings are valid.”
Perhaps the person who is sharing their emotions feels as if they’re all alone on an island where no one gets it. Or maybe they think they’re being silly or overreacting. Put their mind at ease with this phrase shared by Cassine.
21. “That sounds like it was really hard.”
Dindinger says, “This implies that you see the other person and what they are navigating and respect how hard it has been on them. You’re not trying to fix it or them, but are witnessing their struggle.”
22. “This sucks!”
Succinct and to the point, and yet, this phrase communicates so many feelings about a not-so-great situation.
“Sometimes, the best way to empathize is just to get real with someone about how crappy the situation really is,” Bailey says. “This simple, two-word empathy statement can give so much validation that the struggle is real.”
23. “I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here to assist in any way that I can.”
If you are able and if the situation allows, say something that will let the person know that you’re available to help. But remember to set boundaries if you feel you’re being called upon too much, since there is such a thing. Cassine says that empaths struggle with setting healthy boundaries because they are often internalizing the problems and issues of others. Remember to take care of yourself whenever you need it.
24. “Me too.”
“This is a powerful statement of true empathy,” Dindinger says. “It’s what made the #metoo movement so powerful, because women were empathizing with other women and letting it be known that they have also experienced this and that they are not alone. So much of empathy is about deeply connecting with the other person. It is connection that vaporizes shame.”
25. “I’m honored you would share this with me.”
While Bailey says that being vulnerable is a “healthy risk,” it’s still a risk, and may feel scary or foreign for the person who’s sharing.
“When we can acknowledge the personal sacrifice it takes to share something personal, we are letting the other person know what it means to you that they trust you,” Bailey explains.
26. “I know.”
This phrase is simple but says a lot. Dindinger notes that with this deeply empathetic phrase, you are holding the other’s truth inside your heart and not questioning it, and honoring their experience with the respect it deserves.
27. “This is heavy. Thank you for not carrying this alone anymore.”
Bailey says, “In these words, there is an understanding that sharing can help buoy up the heaviness of an experience. It conveys gratitude to another person for their openness.”
28. “I’m deeply saddened by what happened.”
Recommended by Cassine, this phrase can help express your own feelings and is an appropriate thing to say when someone is dealing with something particularly tough.
29. “It’s okay to be angry. I would feel that way too.”
This phrase empathizes with someone else’s feelings, as Dindinger says, by both giving them permission to have their feelings and simultaneously validating their feelings by stating you’d feel that same way.
It’s “letting the other know that what they’re expressing makes sense,” Dindinger explains.
30. “I hate this for you.”
Although Bailey says that this phrase can err “a little on the overdramatic side,” she says that sometimes, this is the response that someone needs: just pure, unadulterated solidarity that you are on their side.
31. “I can imagine how extremely hard this is for you.”
Empathy is all about putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and this phrase shared by Cassine does exactly that.
32. “My heart can hear it in your voice.”
“Listening with your heart is a powerful way of expressing empathy,” Dindinger says. “When you listen with your heart, you can hear what is being spoken and what is being left unspoken, and you are not trying to fix or solve the other person’s experience. Fixing or trying to fix is not an expression of empathy.”
33. “I’m so sorry that you are experiencing this problem/issue.”
While you more than likely didn’t cause the challenging situation, this heartfelt apology recommended by Cassine will still be appreciated by the other person.
34. “I’m team (their name). I’m always in your corner.”
“Giving someone a sense of connection and teamwork can shift the problem from a one-man job to a team effort,” Bailey says. “Adding their name to personalize the empathy statement lets them know that you have their back.”
35. “I hear you. And I’m not going anywhere.”
Bailey says that just showing up and being present with someone in their pain is a huge gift.
“Validating that their emotions are being heard and that you are not going to be scared away is a reassurance that you are a safe and secure person, not only in this moment, but ongoing,” she says.