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Words of Affirmation and Empathy

I have begun to read the five love languages again. Kind of a refresher of sorts. One of the things that I have noticed starting at the first love language; Words of Affirmation, it that I don't speak that language very well. Not to others and not to myself. It's really been evident in the last year that I have been lacking in communication skills in this manner.
Each and ever single day I am sitting at a computer talking to people about health insurance, a job that I have done for the last three years. However, that is not where my customer service skills started. My journey actually started with technical support with Apple. If anyone is familiar with the ins and outs of call center work you understand that you are generally "coached" on your calls for specific things. In every single call center job that I have had my failing point was and still is empathy. "You gotta work on your empathy." I hear time after time in coaching sessions. My current job was great because for almost the entire three years empathy was never a coaching point that could count against me. 
When it comes to empathy I have noticed that it isn't a lack of empathy that I have, but the inability to express it properly. 
"My dog just died and now I have to deal with trying to get the insurance taken care of, he was my best friend the only thing I had left in this world after going through a horrible divorce, (the crying begins) and I just don't know what to do." (hypothetical conversation)
What I am thinking in my head after the crying starts. Please don't cry please don't cry, if you cry then I might cry and I can't be on the phone crying. Must get person off the phone as quickly as possible.
My different responses...
"Okay can I get some more information from you..."  continues call.
" I'm sorry to hear that." (monotone) " Can I get some more information from you to pull up your account?" (monotone again)
It's difficult to express something that you are not used to expressing. 

I have realized that this is because comfort was not easily given to me when I was growing up. Words of Affirmation is difficult and Empathy is difficult to express when you felt as though you did not get those things. I remember writing many letters to my mother to express myself to her. What exactly was in those letters I really don't recall. At that early stage in my life, I was a child yearning for words of affirmation from my mother. Something that I find I still long for in my adult life from time to time. 
When I was a child I did not understand how my mother loved. As an adult, I sometimes still don't understand. Looking back I recall a story that my mother once told me, which would take me until now to realize the importance of the story. It went something like this...
A father had three children. One day he asked his eldest son "how much do you love me?"
"I love you more than the moon and the stars in the sky." He replied
His father was pleased and called the second son in and asked him the same.
"How much do you love me?"
"I love you more than the whole universe."
This also pleased the father and he called for the third son.
"How much do you love me?"
" I love you more than meat loves salt."
The father grew angry.
"You don't love me at all! Be gone." He banished the son from the home. 
Some time passed and the banished son disguised himself as a beggar looking for work and returned to his father's house asking for a job. Not recognizing the son he gave him a job.
On the day of a big feast the banished son asked the cook to put no seasoning in the food, that he would take the blame for anything that might come of it. The cook complied and served the food to the boy's father. 
"What is this that you have brought to me. It has no taste! who is responsible for this?"
"I am." The banished son spoke to his father.
"This is an outrage! I should fire you immediately!"
Removing the disguise and revealing who he was he asked his father. " How much do you love me?"

Honestly finding the story on the internet was completely different from how I remember it, You are talking about 20 years of trying to remember that story. So it may be embellished and inaccurate, to say the least, but the message is not lost to me now. The message that I could not understand back then. When we try to express things through words they can be misinterpreted, misunderstood. The message may be genuine but lost because we don't understand the language. I don't fully understand how to express words of affirmation, but I am learning to do that. I have a friend that I hold very dear to me, watching her expressing words of affirmation on a day to day basis is teaching me how to incorporate it into my life. 
As of right now I still have to work on the words of kindness in order to show empathy verbally. I can write a five thousand page empathetic essay to someone I know but can't express it verbally. 
My next venture with words of affrimation? Learning to accept them for myself from others. Stay tuned.


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