Take a moment and think of a time when a conversation with a partner or friend did not end well. Maybe you thought they were overreacting, or that they shouldn’t be upset about the situation. You offered them advice, and a different way to problem solve, yet they left more frustrated. Maybe you even remember being on that side of a conversation and feeling unheard. Most of the time you didn’t ask for advice or an opinion. So, what was missing from your conversation and why didn’t it end well? It’s usually because there was limited or no empathy, and this is crucial as a foundation in any relationship.
“Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourself.” (Carl Rogers)
Emotional experts often define empathy as an ability to sense the other person’s emotions while imagining what they might be thinking. To imagine what someone else might be thinking means that I must sense what I am thinking and feeling. Empathy is considered a link between two people, the knowing that we are not alone, and the feeling of deep connection.
So how does someone become empathetic?
People are born with different degree’s of empathy and as you grow it is nurtured by others. When someone shows you empathy your capacity for being empathetic increases. Empathy starts off as a small seed then blossoms into a beautiful flower as you are in relationship with others. This applies to children but also as adults we can continue to nurture our capacity to be empathetic.
Why does one person’s capacity for empathy vary from another?
In order to understand how someone else is feeling first you have to know how you are feeling. If that is difficult then your capacity to sense someone else’s emotions is going to be difficult.
Here are 5 tips to help you get started:
Click below and watch the wonderful animated video by Dr. Brene' Brown on empathy.