Synchronicity is a wonderful thing and it always amazes me when a theme will keep repeating itself. I usually find that’s because there’s a message I need to hear. It’s not always pleasant I have to admit, I mean… who among us wants to be constantly reminded of the areas we need to work on, let alone be sent enough messages for lightbulbs to start flashing!
I’m talking here not of being empathic in a healer’s, reiki or psychic sense (where we pick up on another’s emotions and/or feelings and literally feel what they are feeling), but more like what Wikipedia has to say in its definition of empathy:
“Empathy is the capability to share and understand another’s emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes,” or in some way experience what the other person is feeling. Empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, sympathy or empathic concern because this capacity can be present in context of compassionate or cruel behavior.”
When people come to us for help and/or advice and we listen, we give them a shoulder (whether literal or not) to lean on. We do not judge them for whatever has or hasn’t happened, rather we give them time and space to vocalise their feelings and thoughts …. and hopefully this in turn will allow the person concerned to feel as if some of the weight has been lifted, that someone cares… that they matter. Always an important aspect in my opinion.
But how can we do this if we have no real experience of what they are going through? This is where I believe Wikipedia’s definition of empathy comes in. As it states, we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, or to at the very least look at problems as if through their eyes, their perspective – to walk alongside them as it were. We can then try to visualise how this would make us feel, what our automatic reactions would be and how we would react. Yet because we are emotionally distanced or not physically involved (albeit slightly if it’s your best friends or possibly close family) we can then offer a different and more detached perspective to the person concerned, which in turn, may then help them to not take things so personally, to not hurt, to learn to react differently… or just give them pause for thought.
As Eleanor Roosevelt states: “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
I always thought I tried to empathise with people, but at one point in my life when I was faced with some difficult situations, I realised that I didn’t empathise enough! And as a result of that, when I then had discussions with some people, those conversations degenerated because both parties were operating from an emotional and self-motivated point of view. Neither were empathising with the other. As a result, I learnt when to spot the warning flags rearing up… and when that happened… to detach, take a few steps back and try to look at things from the other’s perspective… I tried to empathise 🙂 It’s amazing what that can do, how much it can help you learn about yourself, about others… and how it can change your relationships! And when these lessons started appearing for me, personally, quite a few years ago, I never realised quite how important it would be to me professionally… today it’s obviously a fundamental part of my counselling and coaching work!
So this week, I would ask:
How do you view empathy?
How do you currently empathise with others?
In which situations do you empathise the most?
In which situations do you empathise the least?
What can you do to improve your ability to empathise?
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead ♥
© 2012 Michelle Payne