Empathy: What is empathy? Why is it so important? How to be more empathetic?
Let's start with defining what empathy actually is. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. We often get confused between empathy and sympathy.
When we're sympathetic with someone, we pity them but still maintain our distance from their feelings and experience. We don't want to feel their feelings or experiences mentally, physically and emotionally.
Empathy is more like stronger feelings where we truly understand someone's feelings, experiences and emotions and try to feel it mentally, physically or emotionally.
Why is empathy so important?
Empathy is one of the most important capacities of creating strong bonds or relationships, enhancing emotional awareness and reducing stress, yet it can be tricky sometimes.
I consider myself an empathetic person. However, many times I notice it's hard for me to be empathetic in certain situations with certain people. How can you be empathetic when you totally disagree with someone? I am still trying to learn this capacity.
Still, there are many benefits of being an empathetic person. I also feel that when I am empathetic towards others and myself, I get a sense of peace, connection and positivity around me. And when there is an absence of empathy towards someone, I experience stress, disconnectedness and negativity.
Do you feel the same?
Empathy is a translation of the German term Einfühlung which means “to feel as one with.” It implies sharing the load, or “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,” in order to understand that person’s perspective and what others are going through.
How to be more empathetic?
Being an empathetic person is not a hard thing to achieve if you really believe in the power of empathy. In today's world, we need people who empathize with others.
Start listening more than talking:
Research shows that we talk twice more than what we are listening to. You might wonder if I overcame talking more than listening or not. I didn't but I am trying to listen more now.
To practice empathy, you need to know how the other person is feeling. And for knowing you have to listen. We always have explanations for things we experienced, however, by listening you will get to know how the same things are experienced differently by others.
Stop being judgmental
Being judgmental always works as a barrier to becoming an empathetic person. When we're judgmental, we believe we are right and someone else is wrong. In this way, we can't feel what others are feeling and others will stop expressing their feelings in front of us.
Stop making assumptions
Making assumptions is the shortcut to solving a problem, which often leads us to a wrong conclusion. No wonder the other person thinks "he or she just doesn't understand my situation". So don't try to empathize before you know the whole story of someone.
Put yourself in other's shoes
The more you can understand someone else's situation, the more companionate, understanding and empathy you will show.
In today's world with so much political unrest and this pandemic situation, we should try to be more empathetic. We don't know what the other person is going through.
Work on finding out your biases
No matter how hard we try to hide it, we all have biases that interfere with our ability to listen and empathize. Biases are often focused on visible factors like race, gender, nationality and age. Having these biases doesn't make you a bad person, but not acknowledging it does make you one. Think and find out your biases and work on them to overcome them.
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