ACCEPT AND EXPRESS EMPATHY
accept and express empathy accept and express empathy accept and express empathy
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world. Whether it’s worse or there’s more than ever before is something that we can’t know. But sometimes it feels so overwhelming that the pain numbs us -and our reaction to others. Thus it can feel easier to give sympathy rather than offer empathy.
Sympathy still requires a response that’s heartfelt, yet it takes the emotions from our own heart -our own experiences. While sympathy is a kind gesture, it usually does more for the sender than the recipient. This is because we’re bringing the focus back on ourselves -how we feel- instead of how they really feel. And the only way we can know how they truly feel is through empathy.
While it might feel difficult or draining, there are ways to increase our empathy towards others that connect us beyond the superficial level. We can learn to listen to what they’re really saying without compromising our emotional state. Now more than ever it’s critical to protect our own state of mind while still being able to understand and feel as others do.
Empathy occurs when we emanate emotions that attempt to understand someone else’s emotional state. One way we can increase this understanding is to ask more questions. Many times our questions are formed from our own experience -how we would react or feel about the situation. Instead, we should try to broaden our horizons and consider alternatives. No one reacts to pain or loss the same way, so instead of offering sympathy, ask open-ended questions! By genuinely asking how they are feeling, what’s on their mind, or how we can support them, we’ll gain a better perspective of their actual pain.
Once someone opens up about their authentic feelings, it’s up to us to respond empathetically. This could come as a challenge if we don’t already have a close connection with that person. But while it might be easier to avoid these types of conversations with strangers, there is often an opportunity to show compassion. Whether we know the person or not, there are ways to increase our empathy towards anyone.
One way is to envision them as the child version of themselves. This can help eliminate any indifference or disconnect by reminding us of their pure, authentic nature. We can’t help but comfort children when they are sad or hurt. And we are still those same children inside that need emotional affirmation. So by seeing someone as a child, it can help increase our empathetic response because it changes our perception of them.
Then when it’s time to respond, we can do so by placing ourselves directly in their shoes. This process is possible because we took the time to really talk with them and see them in a different light. After we’ve created this empathetic bond, we can envision what it must be like to be them now, in this moment. Responding with empathy becomes easier because we can differentiate our pain from theirs, and understand that this moment is meant for them.
There’s no list of words to say or a “right” way to activate empathy. It can only come from your heart. While we might suffer too, stepping outside of ourselves to take on a new perspective of pain can lessen our own. Easing the emotions of others just might fill us with the empathy we need for ourselves. Perhaps it’s a reminder that we’re all connected because we feel pain. When we come together to help one another, everyone becomes better.
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