Have you noticed that since lockdown you are having more conversations with strangers, from a safe distance of course? It’s as if we are not only craving conversation but are being generally kinder towards each other, one of the bonuses from this situation.
However whether we are conversing with strangers or people we know well, how empathic are you?
The definition of empathy is “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into other person feelings” (Collins Concise English dictionary).
Why is empathy important? The answer is understanding, it has been said “that being understood is like being loved”. And we all need this in these times.
Communicating empathically is both a cognitive and a gut reaction. At times we may have to work a bit harder to really understand a person and to “get out of our own way”.
So what qualities do we need for empathic communication?
· Attentive listening
· Being non-judgemental
· Being in the other persons shoes
· Mirroring body language
· Caring—on others needs rather than own
Being empathic transforms:
Blame (it’s your fault)
Criticism (that’s not just good enough)
Insults (you stupid idiot)
Threats (if you don’t I will..)
Self-diminishment (putting ourselves down)
Guilt, depression, anger ,shame
As our communication changes with others here’s a chance to be even more empathic to benefit not only the other person but ourselves too.
Compassion and empathy are two words which have found their
way more and more into our everyday language.
Do we really understand what they mean and are we practicing these
I am still learning and integrating these two words and
certainly at times I have to work really hard to bring in these emotions.
Certainly there are specific therapies that now focus on compassion
such as Compassion
Focused Therapy but we don’t need to go to a workshop or class to achieve
If we want to bring these aspects into our lives we need
understand what they are first. Recently
I read a description that highlights the subtle difference between empathy and compassion. In his book “Same
Soul – Many Lives” Dr B Weiss states that empathy is an intellectual approach
in trying to understand another person’s feelings. Compassion is more instinctual and comes from
the heart so you can be compassionate without being empathic.
Trying to understand another person’s feeling can increase
our awareness of others situations which we may have no prior knowledge or
understanding of. It can often be
suggested to “walk in another’s shoes” – to understand and appreciate how the
other person is feeling.
Compassion is often a spontaneous feeling and comes from the
heart with actions that are based in kindness.
Both empathy and compassion take us on the eventual path of unconditional
It can be incredibly hard to put these into practice at
times especially when you have been hurt by others but we always have choices
in how we react and we choose our attitude.
It can take a lot of mental strength, awareness and inner calm to show
compassion but by doing so can drastically change the whole situation. Often it is not about changing the other
person but it is about changing ourselves.
If you come from a place of compassion then you are less likely to feel
anger or frustration, stress will be reduced and you can let go of grudges and
bring in forgiveness. This in turn may
have a positive effect on the other person and thus changing the energy between
It may mean taking time out to think and reflect quietly
about a situation and then going back with a compassionate and/or empathic
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:-
How would I feel if I were in their shoes?
What is contributing to them acting/behaving as
If I was at my most compassionate self how would
I see the situation and how would I want to respond?
Compassion and empathy are not just for others but are
equally important for ourselves. The
starting point is always with ourselves and by being compassionate i.e. being
kind and understanding, these two emotions and values can greatly enhance our
lives and lead to the ultimate goal of unconditional love.