Compassionate humans are everywhere if you’ll open your eyes and see the kindness of those around you. Why? Because compassion is your natural state. So how is empathy different? Being able to empathize with another means you can see and feel from another person’s perspective. Empathy minimizes misunderstandings and enables authentic connections to occur.
Relationships cannot thrive without the ability of both parties to empathize with the other. Otherwise, you will always feel forced to alter your behavior instead of realizing that the other’s perspective is just as critical as yours.
Despite what you may think, 98% of the population can empathize with another. Empathy is vital in every aspect of life that requires you to interact with human beings, so with friends, co-workers, family, and even strangers. If you only think of your interests in any personal interaction, the relationship will fail. So unless you are a self-sufficient hermit who interacts with no one, you need to empathize with others for any of your connections to thrive.
Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message; you’re not alone.~ Brene Brown
It’s Not About You
Empathy is about the other person. It’s about allowing them to speak and be heard or seen. You’re showing them support even if you see things differently. Or you’re not allowing others to discriminate or disparage someone. You can donate to charities or advocate for a cause, but the focus isn’t on you. It’s about the others and making them feel respected, just like you want to be.
Be aware and don’t make assumptions about people, primarily based on the 0.01% you see. Remember, you’re over 99% genetically alike to every other person on the planet. Hence, the surface you see isn’t a suitable way to evaluate anything about a person. Furthermore, when you focus on what’s different about others, it kills empathy.
Don’t forget, the children in your life are watching you. So, what empathetic acts are they witnessing? Or are you showing them apathy for your fellow human beings? Although empathy is part of how you innately relate to one another, it can be encouraged and fostered in children. So be sure you are setting an excellent example for them to follow.
When dealing with children, help them think about the other person’s feelings. And what could they do to make the other feel better? Remember, children need you to aid them in understanding their emotions and how their actions affect others. You’re responsible for helping them navigate this learning process. Model it for them or read them stories with diverse characters to help them identify with those who aren’t like them.
Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourselves, a kind of attuning and understanding. When empathy is extended, it satisfies our needs and wish for intimacy. It rescues us from our feelings of aloneness. ~ Carl Rogers
Relationships Without Empathy
Since everyone has their perspective about any situation, each person brings their own life experiences into the relationship. If you don’t understand where the other person is coming from, they will feel unloved because they won’t feel you are even willing to see things from their point of view. Without empathy, you can’t make a loving bond with another.
Whether at work or in sports, in any group effort, empathizing with other group members is vital for cooperation and collaboration. Moreover, empathy for others increases camaraderie, output, and a more harmonious environment from a leadership standpoint. Conversely, when you see rivalries, disputes, arguments, or competition in groups that are meant to work together, you will discover a lack of empathy amongst the team members.
From a global viewpoint, empathy leads to compassion. When you see another person suffering, you might instantly envision yourself in the other person’s place and feel empathy for what they are going through. You see this in action after a natural disaster when people help strangers on the other side of the world because it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand, armed conflicts, unwillingness to negotiate, escalation in antagonistic banter all show lack of empathy in world leaders.
Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world. ~ Barack Obama
Your relationships require you to communicate with others. But if you have differing views or biases in place, then conversations can become uncomfortable. But remember, growth comes from discomfort, and that’s what you’re doing, expanding yourself to be emphatic towards those unlike you.
When you hear something that makes you uncomfortable, stop and get quiet. Then consciously choose to listen to the person who made the statement. Let the conversation be about the speaker, not how the conversation made you feel. Again, it’s not about you, so no blaming or invalidating their experiences. Instead, focus on the other person and try to understand their perspective.
Be open to fully comprehending the ideas and emotions the speaker is sharing. Don’t have a defensive posture or interrupt. Instead, lean in and make eye contact. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language and tone of voice, conveying how they are feeling.
There is no reason to be hostile. Another’s experience is just that and doesn’t have to match yours. If you choose to engage in conversation, state your view and explain your reasoning. Ask open ending questions for clarification. This discussion isn’t about winning, so don’t let your ego get involved.
When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems. ~ Stephen Covey
Ways To Increase Your Empathy For Others
Did you know that reading about other people’s lives can help your brain see a different perspective? Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, reading a story about other groups unlike yourself helps you identify with them and their situations. Why? Because literature allows you to be inside another person’s head and understand why they are thinking specific thoughts that would be entirely foreign to you.
Learn to listen to the speaker. Active listening to understand the ideas the person is trying to share with you allows empathy to develop. By giving your undivided attention to the speaker, you make them feel cared for, and it opens you up to understanding their perspective.
Be respectful of the differences between people. This act of compassion allows different perspectives to be considered determining the best solution. However, this respecting differences might mean that you have to challenge some pre-conceived ideas or long-standing prejudices.
Talk to strangers or that new person to the office. You need to allow for what you may consider someone who is an outsider to become a friend. Look at strangers as opportunities to expand and grow your tribe. Let your natural curiosity take over, and reach out and greet them.
Follow someone on social media with opposing viewpoints to your own. I do this not so I get upset but learn to see a situation from another perspective because my viewpoint is only one of many to any set of circumstances.
Empathy is the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
Empathically Moving Forward
Science has determined that humans are wired for empathy. Since compassion is your natural state, understanding one another is essential for you to make authentic connections.
It’s through empathy that social reform can occur. You can nurture an attitude of empathy by being curious about strangers and getting to know people who differ from you.
Notice the prejudices you may have about other groups of people, whether religious, cultural, age, class, or sex. Then, educate yourself and discover the commonalities you have with these fellow human beings.
Open yourself up to having uncomfortable conversations by actively listening to one another to understand the other’s perspective, experience, and emotions. This opening means you need to remove the masks and armor so your authentic self can emerge and connect with the other.
When you see yourself in your adversary, you can find connections and solutions to the issues humanity faces. And when you can empathize with another, you can inspire one another to take action towards social reform.
Only when you lock arms with others to stand up for all humanity can a revolution in human relationships take place. Then, through empathy, you consciously choose to love one another, and peace flows.
Empathy is the only human superpower. It can shrink distance, cut through social and power hierarchies, transcend differences, and provoke political and social change. ~ Elizabeth Thomas
Do you need to learn how to increase your empathy for others? Do you need help to overcome the prejudices you have? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.