Flex that Empathy Muscle
Yeah, flex that empathy muscle! It’s the one that matters the most. The more we use it, the stronger it gets, the stronger our relationships get and our connections to one another become more genuine. The world could use a lot more of it right now.
Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
To me, this is something that really drives human connection.
There’s a saying that goes something like this, “Empathy is more rebellious than a middle finger.” While I really enjoy this quote, I encourage you to really give some thought to this. During this strange, strange time, I find it even more important to rekindle human connection. One of my favorite authors and speaker, Dr. Brene Brown, has studied this idea of empathy for many years. During one of her speeches, she mentioned the 4 attributes of empathy. Those four attributes were created by another great woman, Theresa Wiseman.
The Four Attributes of Empathy
Taking another person’s perspective
Staying out of judgment
Understanding another person’s emotions
Communicating the understanding of another person’s emotions
Dr. Brene Brown also makes a great point that we don’t personally have to know exactly what another person is experiencing to empathize with them. However, we have all experienced emotions. The person we are trying to empathize with could be experiencing some mutual emotions that we’ve experienced before. By recognizing that, it’s easier to have that human connection with the person we’re trying to empathize with.
Empathy in Action
Last semester, I was in a class that was designed to help me become a better teacher and communicator. One topic I remember vividly was talking about empathy. Our professor gave us this fool-proof way to empathize with someone even if we had no idea what they were experience, or feeling. It started by listening to the other person. When they were completely finished telling their story, we had to be genuine in our responses.
I found it interesting that it was perfectly OK to tell the other person that you have no idea what they may be going through. However, we had to try and imagine what that pain would feel like. When the other person was finished telling their story, we would say something along the lines of “I can’t imagine what you might be going through, but I would think it might be extremely frustrating.” Or any other emotion that you think the other person might be experiencing. The best part about this way to engage in empathetic conversation is that you can be completely wrong about what the other person is experiencing. If you’re wrong, the other person will let you know. I can guarantee this. Try it for yourself next time you’re talking with someone and they are expressing their emotions.
Here’s the basic way to engage in empathic conversation:
“I bet, I imagine, etc., + that you are feeling (insert emotion)”
The more you practice these types of empathetic statements, the better and easier they become to say to other people. One thing that always sticks out to me about empathy in general is that people will always remember the way you made them feel.
Whatever you do today, be sure to practice empathy. A little bit goes a long way and we could all use some more genuine, connection with others.
Have a great day,