What is empathy and why it is essential for a rich life?
Empathy is the ability to understand and feel a person’s emotions and thoughts, as if they are your own. Let’s have a closer look at empathy:
Characteristics of empathy
- You listen actively, you can observe the non-verbal micro-signals of the body
- You are sensitive and you understand the other’s perspective
- You reward and praise people, you give them feedback for improvement
- You are a mentor and coach for the development of others
- You see people not as equals but different – you develop opportunities according to the different skills and qualities of the people
- You understand group emotion and you create valuable relationships
What the benefits of empathy are?
Curiosity towards strangers
Empathy helps you not be afraid of strangers. Do you know what our mother said “don’t talk to strangers”? Well, she was terribly wrong. If you do not want a lonely life, in which everyone seems to be against you, then empathy helps you to understand that each person has a lot in common with you, that we largely pursue the same goals, and that we are actually genetically programmed to care for each other, to help each other. But it’s up to you to take the first step!
We are indoctrinated by television, media and society that all Muslims are terrorists, that Jews rule the world, that Hungarians want Transylvania, etc. All this hatred and fear dissolves when we give a chance to the person in front of us, when we look through their perspective, the experiences they have gone through and the reasons why they do the things they do.
If you take the first step in listening to those around you, they will feel and understand your desire for connection and will do the same. Both, you and him will be able to create a channel of communication, without negative judgment. You will enter into their intimate universe, and they will.
By empathy you understand the interests of the groups, not only of the individual persons. So you can take attitude and inspire massive social (or family) movement. Think of Martin Luther King, who managed to change the history of America!
In working life I met a lot of non-empathetic colleagues. It is a great pleasure to work with people who do not understand and are not willing to understand your motives and choices, creating an extraordinarily high tension for the smallest things.
On the other hand, an emphatic boss can easily understand that you need free time for the family, or to take a break. Maybe it is just as well to understand why others see a mistake in what you did, when in fact you see a good thing. It is a real pleasure to work with people who take an extra 5 minutes to see life through your eyes.
“A family in which empathy is lacking is a life-long abuse.”
The parent who does not understand the passage of time, who jocks with his child about the music he listens to, the clothes he wears, which forces his children to have a grade of 10 in all subjects, it brings almost nothing useful in the child’s life, it is the authoritarian, perfectionist parenting pattern, which is not on the same wavelength as the child and his personality. The consequences are a child who develops badly, in fear and hatred of the parent and education, shy or excessive, who will seek his love in all kinds of other contexts.
Can anyone be empathetic?
The answer is … NO! There are 4 elements that should be combined:
- To see their world
- To appreciate them as human beings
- To understand their feelings
- To communicate understanding
In order to “see their world”, we need a very strong reason to be able to imagine their past, experiences and values.
In order to “appreciate them as human beings” (without negative judgment) we need self-control, not to jump to conclusions, to understand that their motivations are different from ours.
In order to “understand their feelings” we need to have experienced something similar. It is very difficult or even impossible to understand what a depressed person feels – an extremely unique feeling.
In order to “communicate understanding”, that we are with them and that we understand and feel what they are going through, we need both the rational and the emotional side.
A person who only feels emotions but cannot see through the person’s past cannot be a good empath. Similarly, a person who is too rational, who understands the person’s past and can provide feedback, but only “as in the book”, standard, without folding on the person’s feelings, cannot be considered an effective empath.
“To be empathetic, we need both the emotional and the rational side.”
Are women better empathetic than men?
This is a question that many ladies would answer with “yes”. It is false. Both men and women have the ability to be empathetic at birth. There are really differences, because as you read above, we need both the emotional and the rational side to be empathetic, and men, yes, tend to use the rational part more.
As long as the mothers will teach their children that “big boys don’t cry”, they will not be able to develop emotionally properly!
At what age do you become empathetic?
Some are empathetic from an early age, learning on their own. In some scenarios, parents have a psychological education and can help the children in their emotional development.
But look around, in society and on television: what do you feel about our generations (and beyond)? And do they seem to be understanding people, helping one another, or are they full of fear and anger? That quarreling and screaming is the standard mode of communication?
Most people do not become empathetic even in old age. You are special, if you take the time and succeed in developing this amazing ability to connect, to understand others, and ultimately, even to yourself.
How do you develop empathy?
The first thing we need to do is say “I DON’T KNOW!”.
To realize that we do not understand the motivations of our partners / friends / children, to look at each one as unique, not as an extension of ours. This is the hardest thing to do in a world of experts and perfectionists: to admit that we DON’T KNOW – what other people think, why they do the things they do. Only after we have done this, then we can come up with the open emotion and reason for listening without judgment.
- Active listening: leave the phone and worries aside, show your curiosity about what the person tells you and do not judge, do not go through the filter “what would I do” in this situation
- Shared Identity: Think of the person as a unique individual, and then list the things you have in common with them
- Get out of your head: the story of the person is about her, not about you. Imagine the world through her eyes
- Do not jump to conclusions: do not give the verdict ahead of time. In fact, you give no verdict. You are not here to judge the person, but to feel and understand what they are experiencing
- Watch movies: Learn from quality movies how people express their feelings. Look for micro-gestures
- Practice “empathetic reflex”: describe the emotions you think you feel in your partner / child and try to imagine what his or her motivations are
- Practice meditation: there is no better exercise to free your mind from preconceptions, to be able to clearly see your emotions and those of others, than meditation
Empathy means looking through the universe of the person, appreciating without judging, feeling his feelings and communicating understanding. It is one thing that is so difficult, so satisfying, it is the basis of all successful relationships.
Most importantly, empathy can be learned! Through exercise and meditation, your life can turn from fear and paranoia, into a warm world, where you are surrounded by people who truly care for you, with whom you build deep, lasting relationships. A rich life!
Empaths are the people who take time out of the daylight, dedicating their lives to the lives of loved ones. Because they make this difficult and special, they deserve and will have a special life.