January 7, 2015
What does it mean to be “empathetic”? The dictionary defines empathy as the intellectual identification with or vicarious experience of feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. In other words, “feeling what the other person is feeling”. Some individuals have this talent.. truly experiencing, literally in their body what another person is experiencing, while others have to develop this skill.
In conversation with several clients this week, all of whom are working to develop this emotional intelligence competency – their comments included, “I need to be softer” or “I need to slow down and ask questions”. Great ideas and both in the domain of “doing”.
“Being” empathetic is being able to see the world through another person’s lens – what’s it like to be in their shoes? While these clients were able to analyze and describe what the other person was experiencing, they missed an important step. And that is imagining themselves in the other person’s situation and allowing themselves to “feel” what that might be like. Very often, people who struggle with not being empathetic also struggle with recognizing their own feelings or emotions. Practicing what that might “feel” like…not only gets one in touch with their own emotions, but he/she begins to truly understand how the other person is experiencing the situation. And from that place one can have a conversation that makes a difference and the other person feels “heard”.
At the end of the day, what we all want is to be heard, to “be gotten”. The gift of empathy is listening for what the person is experiencing without judgement or answers. And listening for what’s possible for them – What are they committed to? What’s important to them?
In response, rather than giving advice or suggestions, how can you help them shift their perspective so that they’re able to accomplish what’s most important to them. By stepping into their shoes how can you be a mirror to that person so that they can see themselves and choose an action that is aligned with their higher self.