Have you ever found yourself feeling down after listening to a friend talk about her problems? Or have you ever felt enormous joy after learning that your good friend gave birth to her first baby? Did it seem like good and bad situations happened to you?
These instances where you show care and compassion towards people you care about are experienced by many people. It is called having empathy.
While people experience the feeling, they know very little about what empathy actually is. It is considered as the experience of feeling what others feel and understanding their thoughts. Simply put, empathy is all about putting yourself in other people's shoes.
Often, emotional empathy is confused with the concept of sympathy. While the two ideas may be similar in thought, sympathy is the feeling usually expressed in sorrowful situations. Empathy, on the other hand, covers both happy and sad times.
Empathy in the workplace is one of the most beneficial practices for any business. It allows the employer and the employees to engage in an active emotional experience, making it easier for both parties to understand each other.
Empathy puts you in a vulnerable position as others' emotions, thoughts, and feelings could significantly affect you.
Actively listening to what others are going through can help cultivate empathy in your life. It can be the beginning of empath training or becoming a better human being in general Here's how you can do it:
The first thing you need to learn about empathy in communication is that it can only happen within an environment that does not come with judgments. To actively understand a person and what he or she is going through, you need not form conclusions or opinions.
Having judgments even before you hear their side of the story can create barriers that make it difficult to tune in with their feelings. Doing so can turn you into someone dismissive. It will further distance your position from a listener's perspective.
A quick tip, when asking questions, make sure they do not begin with "why." These types of questions often come off as judgmental. It also suggests that you are there to give them some advice, which at that moment, they practically do not need or want.
When you ask them "why" questions may also put them in a more defensive position. Consider asking open-ended questions. There are many ways you can frame them, including asking questions beginning with "what," "how," "when," and "where."
For example, instead of asking why they didn't see a doctor first, you can frame the question like, "Have you ever thought of seeing a doctor first?".
How you ask the question affects how the other person responds.
Body language becomes an essential tool in situations when you are called to just listen. Eye contact, body positions, and gestures become helpful in showing the other person that you are there to listen to their story.
It is important to note that there may be cultural differences to consider too. Specific body movements can mean different things based on the cultural background of those involved in the conversation. Be very careful about how you move your body.
For example, Western culture has trained people to always maintain eye contact as this could make the other person feel that they have your complete attention. However, other cultures, particularly those in the Middle East, do not practice eye contact as it comes off as a bit disrespectful.
These small gestures can go a long way. It could help move a conversation. When not careful, it could hinder conversations from ever happening.
Simply acknowledging what the other person feels can go a long way. It lets them feel that their thoughts and feelings are real, and they are valid. It can help refresh the situation by giving them some space so that they can come to terms with what they really feel inside.
Feelings of shame, guilt, and doubt—all of these can arise when a person is trying to open up their situation to you. Validating those emotions helps establish a connection, allowing what can be considered a refocus in the atmosphere.
Instead of feeling sorry for how they feel, they begin to recognize how worthy they are because of the attention you are giving them.
People keep themselves quiet, depending on how comfortable they are with the person they are with. Finding the balance between what you are comfortable with and what the other person feels comfortable with should help in cultivating empathy.
In some cases, you might find yourself and the other person merely enjoying the silence shared between the two of you. It may seem awkward in the beginning, but it can be incredibly useful in situations when tension is rising or when interactions become unproductive. Give yourself some time to explore the quiet in every case, and you will discover how incredibly helpful it can be.
The practice of showing empathy and compassion to others may put you in a vulnerable situation, but it is not all that bad. Instead, you can use it to your advantage to increase the connections and establish a social support system. It can bring about feelings of relief and understanding.
Showing empathy also makes you experience a kind of release. However, it is particularly important to be sensitive about how you practice empathy. Otherwise, it can be misunderstood and come off as sometimes dismissive in nature or just plain sympathy.
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