Does it sound familiar to always want to help your loved ones through tough times, only to find that nothing you say seems to work?

Have you been told to constantly provide solutions, leaving you feeling frustrated and unheard? If you’re tired of feeling this way and not getting the results you desire, it’s time to shift your approach. Let’s explore a game-changing way to communicate with your loved ones during hard times that can transform your relationships.

Andrew and Catherine share personal experiences and insights on the importance of discerning between offering sympathy and solutions in challenging conversations. Catherine reflects on her journey of learning to balance providing empathy and practical support, emphasizing the transformative impact on her relationships, especially with her children.

The conversation delves into practical tips, such as actively listening and creating a safe space for others to express themselves authentically. The hosts stress the significance of understanding when to offer sympathy or solutions and how it can lead to more meaningful and supportive connections. Catherine’s relatable experiences and valuable insights make this episode a must-listen for individuals navigating tough relationships, offering practical guidance on empathetic communication and emotional support. If you’re seeking to enhance your emotional intelligence in supporting loved ones through difficult times, this episode provides actionable advice and relatable anecdotes to guide you on this journey.

In this episode of the Five Year You podcast, host Andrew Dewar engages in a candid conversation with co-host Catherine Collins about the importance of understanding when to offer sympathy versus solutions to people in need. Catherine shares her personal journey of learning to balance providing empathy and practical support, highlighting its transformative impact on her relationships, particularly with her children.

The discussion delves into practical tips, such as actively listening and creating a safe space for others to express themselves authentically. The hosts emphasize the significance of discerning between sympathy and solutions, offering valuable insights and relatable anecdotes for individuals navigating challenging relationships. This episode provides actionable advice and relatable experiences, making it a valuable resource for those seeking to enhance their emotional intelligence in supporting loved ones through difficult times.




00:00:00 - Andrew Dewar

Hi. Welcome to today's episode. Today's episode is called Sympathy or solutions. This is a game changing way of communicating with someone you love who is going through a hard time. And before we jump in, I just want to set the intention that this helps you lighten relationships and open up communication lines that may not have been open before because it definitely opened up a whole new world for me when I heard about this. Welcome to the five year Youth podcast, a show dedicated to helping you become the best version of yourself one day at a time. I'm Andrew.

00:00:34 - Catherine Collins

And I'm Cat. And we promise to keep it raw, real and relatable.

00:00:40 - Andrew Dewar

Are you ready to grow? This podcast is intended to entertain, educate, and inspire you on a personal journey towards your best self. We are in no position to give advice and our hot messes on the best of our days. Clearly, we're in no position to offer health or medical advice or really any life advice, but we want to entertain you. Just a reminder, this is not a replacement for proper medical care or therapy. If you are struggling, please seek help from a qualified health professional. Let's jump in. Welcome to today's episode. Today's episode is called sympathy or solutions. This is a game changing way of communicating with someone you love who is going through a hard time. Basically, when someone is having a hard time and they come to us to talk about it, we immediately go into solving mode. We want to give them advice, we want to fix it, but that's not always what people need. And sometimes they want solutions, but often they want sympathy. And this has been game changing for me. When you told me about this, Cat.

00:01:41 - Catherine Collins

Yeah, I'm really glad we're doing this episode today. I thought about it recently and I was trying to remember where I first heard of this, and I think it was in a counseling session many years ago when I was asking a therapist for advice on communicating with the people I love and just trying to learn how to better interact with them. It just seemed like whether it was the kids or a friend or my spouse at the time, it just felt like I was trying to help so many people when they were going through a hard time, and it just felt like nothing I said was working or like the advice wasn't taken. And she told me that it's really helpful to ask somebody when they come to you with a problem, are you looking for sympathy or are you looking for solutions?

00:02:36 - Andrew Dewar

I love that I can definitely say that as a man, and I'll speak for my whole gender because it's the only platform that they're ever going to let me do that. I can apologize because we just want to fix things. When somebody falls down and scrapes to their knee, you want to put a band aid on it, you want it to heal. When somebody comes and says, I have a problem, it's kind of like that mechanic minded mindset. It's a masculine mindset, really, is what it is, coming in and going, okay, something's not right, we need to fix that. You're going to come to me with this problem, but whether it's internal, external, and I'm going to give you every solution that you can possibly think of so that you can be better now, faster. When you told me about this, I was just flabbergasted because I couldn't imagine that this was a thing. But as we start discussing more kind of masculine and feminine energies, kind of see more sympathy as like a more of a feminine energy approach and solutions feels more like a masculine energy approach. I could be totally wrong on that, but that's just kind of how it sounds when we talk about it.

00:03:45 - Catherine Collins

Yeah. So in the personal development community, when we say masculine and feminine energies, all people have elements of both their masculine and their feminine. And again, this is sort of the definitions in this community, in psychology. And the typical masculine energies are fixing problem solving, usually a little bit more aggressive and things like that. And then the feminine energies are usually softer and we can feel out of alignment with our true selves. For example, if I have to be in my masculine energy, because I am a solo parent to my kids, so I'm often like in my masculine. Getting things done, paying the bills, doing all this stuff. That's not to say that women don't do those things. It's just a descriptive term to where you can sort of identify in yourself. Oh, today I had to do all this masculine energy stuff, and I want to feel softer, I want to feel calmer, I want to get sink into my feminine. It's a way to adjust your energy. And we are going to do an episode on that. But that's just really a simplistic way to explain it. So when you're saying that, Andrew, yes, that is the case. Because typically it's challenging for men in our society to see somebody upset. Feelings for a lot of men, although this is changing thanks to men like you who are talking about things like this. For a lot of men, feelings make them very uncomfortable. And so men immediately want to go to, oh, no, this person's crying. They have a flat tire. I must fix it right now who's being mean to you? Oh, no, that's wrong. This is broken, whatever it is. And it's a beautiful quality when you're in need of a solution, actually. But sometimes a lot of women go to the men they care about, actually.

00:05:48 - Andrew Dewar

Looking for sympathy, and that's good to know. I characterize masculine energy often as, like, this action oriented, physically doing something. Yeah. And this ability to sit and just listen is really challenging, I think, when you first start going with it. I'm very new to the whole feminine side of energy, as you know. And when I first heard it, I was told, like, you need to nurture this side of you because you're very much taking action. Taking action. Taking action, yes. But you also need to rest. Even if you have a ton of energy, your body still needs to rest. It still needs to allow things, allow space and time for things to come to you.

00:06:32 - Catherine Collins

Because we all want balanced energy in general.

00:06:35 - Andrew Dewar


00:06:36 - Catherine Collins

The goal is to feel balanced inside of ourselves.

00:06:40 - Andrew Dewar

And like you said, we've got a whole episode planned for the masculine and feminine energy. I can definitely say that when we were using this in our working relationship with the podcast, even this morning, it came into play. I was working on, I'm getting the website ready for different things, and I was just getting frustrated because I'm not super well versed in building website code, and I was breaking the podcast over and over and over again, which was really fun. Again, to our producer, Steve, who's listening to this, that was my bad, and I apologize. And you just kind of were able to come in, and you came in with sympathy, not solutions, because you didn't have the solution, too. Right. And that's not really what I needed.

00:07:25 - Catherine Collins

No, I didn't know how to code the website.

00:07:28 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah. So sometimes just coming in and reminding the solution minded person that there's sympathy can actually help. It's just like, I'm here for you. You don't have to get it right. Right now, I know you want it this way, but that's just a you thing, and you can change how you see that. And you just gave me a few little perspectives on it, and I finally took a deep breath, and I'm like, right, I don't have to have it all figured out today. So thank you for that.

00:07:59 - Catherine Collins

Yeah, you're very welcome. To be honest, we're not even saying that solution. I mean that sympathy is preferable to solutions. We're just saying to ask someone what they need. Because I will say that it's amazing how if I need help with something or I need something done or don't know how to do something, Andrew will know the answer. He will have the answer, and he will be able to help me with this. That broke the website. Untold things like, including, I don't know, what was it last week? Like, water was leaking into my car. And you were like, Catherine, you need to make an appointment at this place and go get your windshield looked like, okay, okay. Like, I'll do it. Because the feminine is feeling and the masculine is action taking. And so I could feel all day long, and you're like, that's not going to help the windshield.

00:08:56 - Andrew Dewar

Exactly. And for all of you that aren't watching this on YouTube, I am blushing very badly with Catherine being so complimentary to me. I think that's just a thing I know for myself and my human design type, which we'll get into another episode. But I know I'm very much. I get caught in my own head with thinking, right. And that was going on with the website. It goes on a million times a week. For me, what I've found with us working together is by me getting it out and saying it and you, I guess, holding spaces to the term for it. When you do that, it's such a relief for me to be able to say something and be like, okay, it's all right. It helps ease the process. It helps release the stress in my own brain, the anxiety that I have. Because the bad part about always wanting to take action is a lot of time. You always want it to be done right. You're not satisfied until the project is done, the task is completed, the box is checked, and being able to talk about it, being able to share, really does help. Gives me sympathy when I'm not even sure if that's what I'm looking for. Because I'm so used to the pragmatics, problem solving part. The sympathy part that comes in is really welcomed because I'm so not used to it in my own mind.

00:10:15 - Catherine Collins


00:10:16 - Andrew Dewar

So thank you.

00:10:17 - Catherine Collins

Yeah, you're very welcome. And I will say that if this concept seems foreign to you, this is something that I learned how to do. I was looking to improve my communication style a few years ago. I had mostly those masculine traits. I was very ambitious. I still am. But I'm embracing, like, a much softer, calmer version of myself. Just very intense. Lots of decision making. And a lot has changed in the last two years. And so when you ask someone for sympathy, it's really a catchy thing to say sympathy or know, because alliteration but it really means that you could have sympathy for someone. You could have empathy for them. Are you really trying to understand how they feel? Or as Andrew said, you're holding space. And if you're not familiar with the concept of holding space, it's probably the most powerful act of love you can do for somebody in today's generation, because we live in a very busy world where things are hectic, where our phones have notifications going off all the time, and somebody you care about comes to you with a problem and they don't want solutions. Maybe you ask for you to sit there and say, okay, I'm holding space for you. And what that means is I'm not going to look at my phone. I'm not going to type on the computer while you're talking. I'm here to listen. You can cry. You can punch a pillow. You can do the really bad snot cry. That's fine. Whatever you want to do, I'm holding this space for you, meaning you don't have to be alone when you're trying to figure out this annoying problem. I'm here. And to tell someone that you're willing to have the time for them and set it aside is very powerful. And I found that with the kids, too. I don't know about with your kids, but I immediately go into mama bear mode when they're like, oh, this kid pushed me on the playground. Like, tell me their name. But a lot of times they just want to get it out. They just want to tell you their worries of the day before they go to bed. And they just want that softness. And for you to be like that sounds like it was really hard. What do you think you should do things like that.

00:12:46 - Andrew Dewar

I'm definitely the same way with my kids. Your job is to protect them, right? And so when you hear those things, yeah, it's like, whose tires do I need to go slash? I have not slashed anybody's tires.

00:12:58 - Catherine Collins

Just for the record, people dumbass with our kids.

00:13:04 - Andrew Dewar

I just find that with all that stuff, when you're telling somebody that you're holding space for them, again, very new term for me as well. But when you're holding space for somebody, what it means to me is suddenly I'm not alone in the lifeboat and there's someone there, and it's like, you know what? I am going to be trying to patch the hole or get us to shore. Whatever analogy you want to use.

00:13:31 - Catherine Collins

Really good analogy, Andrew. One of your better ones.

00:13:33 - Andrew Dewar

I hate using them up at the beginning of the year. Because I only have so many in know. It's just nice to know, like, okay, I'm not alone. And after the last few years that we've all gone through as a society, a lot of us are feeling alone. And for you to reach out to somebody is hard enough, but for you to reach out to somebody and have somebody go, I'm here with you. And you hear that it relaxes you on a different level, because suddenly, that was one of the big worries, was that I'm doing all this stuff and I'm alone and this is happening and that's happening. But when someone is holding space for you, it doesn't matter if they're in the room with you or they're halfway across the world. Just knowing that it really does help. I found that to be a great reliever of stress and anxiety, personally.

00:14:19 - Catherine Collins

Yeah, for sure. And for the person who is doing the space holding, it can be hard. We probably mentioned at least once every episode that we're both highly sensitive. So my kids, when they cry things like that, I deeply feel their tears, I feel their pain, and I want to do whatever I can to make it stop. So, again, this is a skill, a communication skill that I had to learn and practice, and I still don't get it right all the time, depending on how I'm doing, how well I've slept. Sometimes I'm like, okay, do you want sympathy, or do you want solutions? Do you want me to help you or just want to tell me about it? And then other times, I'm like, what's wrong? What is everyone crying? Here we lower the volume and get to the root of the problem. But when I'm in my best self, nice and rested, we can do this. And again, the more you practice it, the more it becomes your default. And for me, I had to learn to actually handle people's sadness because I feel it so deeply.

00:15:31 - Andrew Dewar

I feel it as well. I didn't realize that's what was happening for the longest time. But again, with more self awareness, the more you can help others as well. I found when it came to using this in the beginning, because I'm definitely a lot newer at using this than you, that the neural pathway of fixing was a very deep trench. And I would often notice we'd be in a situation either with you or with my kids or just anyone, and you're in that problem solving mode, and then you kind of recognize that, wait, I went five steps before asking if I should even be on this road. And at any point, you can stop and say, do you need sympathy or solutions? And sometimes it's both. But sometimes it's, I need sympathy first, and then we're going to get to the solutions part. And that has been a very powerful thing. I know, for me and for my kids and just for friends, because sometimes you go for lunch with somebody and they start ranting about stuff. They don't want you to solve their marriage, they don't want you to solve their problem at work. They just need a little sympathy. And that's good to know because as the problem solver, and I'm sure, Cat, you can relate to this, it's kind of frustrating when you solve everybody, the world's problems and nobody listens to you.

00:16:54 - Catherine Collins

Like, why doesn't anyone like my ideas? I had solutions for everything.

00:16:58 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah, we could have world peace in five minutes if everybody just listened to me, obviously. So I think there's that part of it right where it's like, it does relieve a little bit of tension in my own head when I'm like, I don't have to give the solution. I don't have to come up with this crazy solution to this problem that isn't going to probably exist in a week, but I feel like I got to solve it and they're not going to do anything about it, then I'm going to resent them for wasting my time and not doing the thing that was so easy to do that they.

00:17:29 - Catherine Collins

Just not taking my great advice.

00:17:30 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah, exactly. So for any of you out there, that's going like, I don't know if I can sit with somebody while they cry or while they rant or anything. It gets easier as you go. The first time is really uncomfortable. I think I bit through my lip the first time because I had so many good nuggets of advice. Just, I can't even get through that with a straight face. I'm sorry, but you're just like, oh, I can tell. Why don't you do. No, I'm just going to sit here and we're going to listen about why they took your Pokemon card.

00:18:03 - Catherine Collins

Oh, that's a whole other story we don't have time for.

00:18:06 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough.

00:18:10 - Catherine Collins

What I try to do now, and if you're not highly sensitive and stuff doesn't really bother you, and you're just like a chill person and you're a great for people to talk to, but it's like, good for you. How do you do it? But for me, a lot of the times I will sort of envision getting into a bubble or zipping myself into a bubble and having the person's things bounce off, and then I sort of am radiating love out of the bubble. And I know that sounds silly, but I kind of have to get in it because you don't know when someone's about to really pour in the heavy stuff on you. And so when someone starts pouring the heavy stuff and I feel myself feeling, like, feeling their feelings, like that deep empathy. If I don't want to start crying myself and be sad the rest of the day, I've got to zip up and get in the bubble and just sort of give them love. And I'm here for you without taking it all the way in as well.

00:19:14 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah. I got to say, the first time I heard this, my background is in accounting, and if I can't put it on a spreadsheet, it technically doesn't exist in this universe. And I've gone from that kind of solid material things to all this ethereal energy stuff. And the energy stuff is real. It's just that when you can't see it, it's really hard to understand.

00:19:39 - Catherine Collins

So feelings based, it is, yeah.

00:19:41 - Andrew Dewar

And the more I get into that, the more I can recognize when somebody's energy is, like, kind of encroaching on mine. But the zipping up thing, as silly as it sounds in the beginning, it works. It's like a lot of things. You don't need to know how it works. It just does. It's a mindset. And if you can kind of keep your energy to yourself and emanate love outwards, like Catherine's saying, then it really does help that person, and it protects you. Another good thing to do is to have a process throughout the day. Usually I do mine before bed, where just kind of lie down, and I just let go of the things that don't belong to me. Let's say this is a great example. If somebody cuts you off in traffic that day and you're holding on to it and holding onto it and holding on to it because you're angry, that's hurting you right now, the guy that cuts you off, or lady, is gone.

00:20:36 - Catherine Collins

Probably one of those moms in the pickup line.

00:20:38 - Andrew Dewar

Probably the mums in the pickup line from an earlier episode. But when those people do that, you hold on to the anger. You get so put off, and it's not impacting them, it's impacting you. So I just have a process now at the end of the day, where I'm like, I let go of everything that isn't mine. And the truth is the person that cut me off wasn't about me, it was about them. And so you just kind of let that go. Most of these things are not easy. They're simple, but they're not easy. But they get easier as you do them. And we're just trying to make new neural pathways, trying to create some new habits every week. And this one, as far as everything goes, is a real game changer. The sympathy or solutions really does alter your relationships with most people, because I do think that as the problem solver, it makes others feel like you're not actually sitting there being sympathetic or holding space. And when they realize you can do both, you can help them in more ways than one.

00:21:43 - Catherine Collins

I agree, and I think it has helped me personally improve a lot of relationships, especially now that it's become a habit. The kids know that when they have a problem, it's not something like, well, if I tell mom, she's going to try to fix it or she's going to email the principal or whatever it is she's going to do, I know I can go to her and she's just going to listen if I need her to. And that creates a safe space and that creates a place in which people feel they can be vulnerable and authentically themselves, which, as we've said in future episodes, really is the key to finding happiness, sort of living as you and being around people who accept you. So that is what this has grown into, and that's why we thought that this would be a useful thing to share with you.

00:22:35 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah, absolutely. So today's challenge is, the next time you're having a conversation, ask yourself, is this person wanting sympathy or solutions? And be brave. Ask them. Just say, I feel what you're telling me. I get how this is frustrating you, or painful or a hard emotion of some kind. Do you want sympathy right now? Or solutions? It will make them usually take a step back and pause to recognize what they're doing, which gives them a little bit of concept outside of themselves, which is always nice. And then they'll give you one of the two answers, or both, and you can proceed from there. If you're in problem solving mode, it's going to relieve a lot of stress for you because you're suddenly not on duty to act and fix. You can just sit there passively and be a good shoulder to cry on, so to speak.

00:23:31 - Catherine Collins

Well, I think it's time for the.

00:23:35 - Andrew Dewar

Ooh, glimmers. Every week, Cat and I like to share something that has made us smile or that we're enjoying or just little something personal so you know a little more about us. So, Cat, what's your glimmer?

00:23:51 - Catherine Collins

Yeah, it's kind of related to this episode, and this makes me smile for, like, weeks now. So I'm going to share it. So I might have mentioned on a previous episode, but I have twins and they're boy girl twins, and they are not in the same class at school, but they have recess together. And we've been dealing with a little boy who's kind of a bully and trying to give them tools to handle it and listening to them. But the greatest thing is that it's given me lots of practice with sympathy or solutions, but it's nice that they have each other. So this little boy was poking my daughter at recess, poking her with his fingers. Poke, poke, poke. And she was telling him to stop and go away. And he was chasing her and little kid stuff.

00:24:42 - Andrew Dewar

So clearly he doesn't like her.

00:24:44 - Catherine Collins

No crush on her at all. No, he was poking her and my son, her twin brother, who is a sweet boy, but, man, something new came over him. And apparently in front of a bunch of other kids and my daughter, he said, hey, you keep poking my sister, I'm going to poke you.

00:25:09 - Andrew Dewar

I like it. I love that.

00:25:12 - Catherine Collins

And I don't condone violence or kids poking each other, but it was kind of nice that he stood up for his sister. It made me smile.

00:25:24 - Andrew Dewar

He poked the bear sister. He deserves it.

00:25:27 - Catherine Collins

Exactly. I'm glad they had each other. And I haven't heard much about that kid messing with them in the last week or two, so I think it kind of worked.

00:25:37 - Andrew Dewar

Oh, that's awesome. I didn't realize that it hadn't happened again. That's fantastic.

00:25:41 - Catherine Collins

Yeah. How about you?

00:25:42 - Andrew Dewar

Well, I should have gone first because mine's going to suck now compared to that.

00:25:47 - Catherine Collins


00:25:48 - Andrew Dewar

I am trying to create more of a peaceful environment in my place. And so I'm trying to get my mind to shut off. So I got a drift table from, I think it's home medics I got out of Amazon. It's a giant bowl. It's like 16 inches wide, and it's got sand on top. It's like one of those sand gardens that you see in all the stores except this is mechanized. So there's a little marble that sits in it and there's magnets underneath, and it moves the ball around in different patterns. And you just kind of sit there and watch it as it goes. And it's really relaxing. It's just cool how the patterns that it can do. It's got like hundreds and hundreds of patterns. There's Valentine's Day patterns. Yeah, it's just really cool. So I've shared a couple of them on my feed, but it's really relaxing. And there's like an LED light that kind of, you can set the color to it and change it and you can change the speed and the brightness and everything. So really just a little fun thing. But I've always found, like, I can't stare at a candle for hours, like people say when they meditate. But this is really nice. I've actually barely watched TV this week since getting it because I just kind of like staring at it. And as it makes the patterns, it's very relaxing.

00:27:02 - Catherine Collins

That sounds so nice. I'm really glad that you bought that for yourself. Your house is turning into just a chill vibe.

00:27:09 - Andrew Dewar

For sure it is. I want to come home and I want to always feel like I am safe. I can relax. I can just let go of the stress of the day. And I feel like I'm getting that with every little thing. So that's good.

00:27:22 - Catherine Collins

That's awesome.

00:27:23 - Andrew Dewar

Yeah. And if you have a glimmer, just let us know at [email protected].

00:27:28 - Catherine Collins

We're always rooting for you and we'd love to care about it.

00:27:31 - Andrew Dewar

Well, thank you for listening. Remember, it doesn't matter where you've started from or where you're coming from. It matters where you're going.

00:27:38 - Catherine Collins

And we are rooting for you. Close.