Empathy can be confusing and it’s a big part of what we refer to as EQ or emotional intelligence. Here are a few ideas to help you become a little more empathetic. I call these the essences of empathy and I hope that it will assist us in understanding empathy a little better and hopefully help us all be a little more empathetic.
Life is about choices and empathy will only exist when we make the choice to be kind. Being kind rather than right, willing to understand the other persons point of view rather than our own – this is the beginning of empathy.
Appreciate people for who they really are – everybody is different and we need to accept that fact. The mediocrity of conformity no longer serves us and we cannot expect people to fit into our mould or the mould of the status quo. We need to understand that the differences in others and the reason why we have noticed these differences are not there so that we can judge others, but rather that the differences are there for the very reason that we need to love others, not judge them.
Walk in their shoes and understand them – the old saying walk a mile in another mans shoes is true. The only way to truly understand someone is to imagine yourself in their position and as far as possible see things from their perspective. When we are able to do this, we start to emotionally connect with the person, understanding their reality. It is this understanding of their agreement with reality that will help us be more empathetic towards them.
Understand their feelings – to understand feelings we need to separate the facts from the emotions, this can be done by looking at what the real facts are and then understanding the emotions that have led to this point in the persons life. This point could be a high or a low. Being empathetic is about understanding the persons viewpoint and the emotions attached to that viewpoint. A general rule is that men will mask emotions with too many facts and woman with mask the facts with a lot of emotion. Listen long enough to hear the facts and the emotions, so that you can gain a real understanding of the communication you are receiving from them.
Communicate with understanding – this is our greatest challenge to being empathetic. Questions are the answer hear as asking questions force us to listen to the answers, so force yourself to ask questions instead of giving your commentary. Empathy is about your concern for the other person to find an opportunity to lift them up. Listening properly to someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, so our real duty is to keep them talking so we can keep listening – keep asking questions and keep the questions open ended. Open ended questions are non-judgemental, never ask a question like ‘Why did you do what you did?’ rather ask questions like ‘How did that make you feel?’
When asked for advice remember that the person is actually asking you to ‘Tell them what they want to hear’ and not what you are thinking. Giving advice is normally where we go wrong in Emotional Intelligence, try as far as possible to get the person to answer their own questions, the more they talk the clearer their reality will be for them. Listening is 80% of any success, all we need to be is good listeners.