My latest message – All part of the healing process.
March 7th, 2017
Today I want to discuss empathy. We all see empathy as a very important attribute and one that we should practice but often we fail at showing empathy to others.
First let’s discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Sympathy allows us to express feelings of being “sorry” for someone’s pain but does not put us “in” their shoes. In other words, when we express sympathy, we state that we are sorry someone is in pain. When we express empathy we connect to that person’s pain so we “feel” the pain on a personal level which gives us a deep sense of connection with that person.
However, how do you feel empathy for someone if you have never experienced what they are going through?
The best advice I can give is to recall a similar experience that you faced and use this as a way to identify to the person’s situation to the best of your ability. If you can’t understand and identify with someone else’s feelings, you aren’t going to be able to share their emotional experience.
Most of the time we are pretty good at expressing empathy to our friends and family, and some people are better than this than others. Some of my friends were terrible at being empathetic while I was recovering from my injury.
So let’s look at some of the reasons we may not be very empathetic and discuss how we can become better at showing empathy.
1. We judge! We often hear someone expressing their pain and immediately begin to think about how we would handle the situation differently. We may even think they caused their problem. For example, if someone had taken better care of their health, then they wouldn’t be ill…..and the list goes on.
To be empathetic we need to stop judging others. Period. We need to love them where they are and forget about what may have prevented the issue. Often we need to forget about trying to solve their problem and just listen.
2. We aren’t present. Let’s think about why we can’t be empathetic when we aren’t living in the present moment. Consider this scenario – you are rushing to work and left at the last minute. You need to make a quick stop and wind up in line at the store. The lady in front of you has children, a full cart, and can’t find her wallet. You immediately feel impatient and angry.
You are focused on being late for work and you don’t even think about what she may be going through or how her day has started.
You don’t know that she is caring for an autistic child, has a sick husband at home and is working two jobs. Her situation is just not important because you are too wrapped up in your own situation to consider anyone else.
It is time to stop this insanity. What if you left for work a bit earlier? What if you looked at everyone else and wondered what they might be going through? What if you took the time to offer a word of encouragement to the lady in line rather than remaining caught up in your own story? Slow down and set an intention to “practice” empathy.
Recently after I taught a Yoga class a lady approached me to tell me that she had not wanted to come that day. She said she had just lost her son a few weeks ago and was unmotivated but that the class was just what she needed.
I really felt her pain and hugged her as we cried together. I have never lost a child but I was able to tap into her feelings because I was present. If I had run out of the room after class to go to my next appointment I would have missed this beautiful opportunity!
3. When practicing empathy with your friends and family – take the time to listen more and talk less. Don’t try to solve their problems and just allow yourself to feel their pain.
Unfortunately when we are dealing with family and friends, we are more comfortable offering unsolicited advise, instead of just listening with a nonjudgmental ear.
When we work in a field that involves helping others solve their problems or providing solutions, (like I do), we can become terrible at taking off our “work” hat and being a true friend.
Many times when we listen, express understanding, are practice being “present”, we help others find healing.
This is what I do – help others find healing. Empathy is very healing and I try to do my best to show empathy to each of my clients by following the principles I have shared in this message.
Just as our journey to better health is an ongoing practice, our ability to become better at showing empathy, is a daily choice.
Please contact me if you need help with your program of if you would like to start on your journey to better health.
I am here to “serve” you!
Peace and Love,