Conversations have the greatest impact on our ability to connect with others. Some bring us closer together, some drive us apart. The difference between the two is empathy.
Empathy isn’t only for people who are upset. It’s important in all our interactions.
We have two basic ways in which we interact with the world. We’re either empathetic of others, or we’re focused on ourselves. Empathy allows us to think of the other person. “What do they think of…?” or “How would they feel about…?” Empathy allows us to approach conversations as a means to connect with others and to deepen understanding.
When a person isn’t empathetic, they focus on their own world and their own experience. Sometimes this is as simple as a husband becoming upset that his wife didn’t make supper even though she was home all day and he was at work. He sees his world, but didn’t see all the things she did during her day that prevented her from making supper. Other times lack of empathy takes on darker forms. When a person attacks someone because of their religion, colour of their skin, or the fact that they claim to be a gamer even though they’re not very good, these situations all reflect people focused on themselves and their experiences.
We can’t change the way other people behave, but we can choose how we act. We can be intentionally empathetic in our interactions both online and in person.
Why Empathy is Important
When people don’t feel heard, they may feel sad, doubtful, ashamed, or angry depending on the situation. These feelings spread to others. By listening to people with the intent to understand their point of view, we offer the opportunity to connect and increase positive feelings. Another great benefit gained from empathetic conversations is the other person often listens to your point of view with a more open mind and heart as well.
Empathy allows us to share ideas because it keeps communication open and allows all participants to feel like they are valued. These conversations allow heated topics to be discussed and all participants leave the conversation feeling heard, valued, and more connected to the other people than before the conversation. It isn’t necessary to change anyone’s mind about the topic, all that matters is whether you listened to understand them and they listened to understand you.
Empathy at Home
In our day to day life this is most valuable when talking to our family members. I’d say 98% of the fights Ryan and I have are from not being intentional in our discussions. We each focus on our own point of view instead of the other person. We leave feeling like we aren’t valued, like we don’t matter. If these interactions happen too often, it wears people down. Eventually the relationship ends or becomes toxic. prese
Empathy is energy. Both giving and receiving empathy carries energy with it. To give empathy you require a certain amount of personal strength. This means in moments of stress, including lack of sleep, your ability to be empathetic to others will be diminished. But receiving empathy gives you strength you didn’t know you had. This energy exchange is what deepens the connections between us when we are empathetic. This is why relationships that use empathy frequently are stronger.
I believe through empathy we can transform all areas of our life. Are you intentionally empathetic to the people in your life? If not, would you be willing to try it to see how it changes your relationships?