Empathy: What is it, and how to I use it?
What is Empathy?
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Meaning you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
What is Sympathy?
Sympathy is feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
There is an article from elephantjournal.com, written by Kelsey Michal that explains empathy, and how we may be showing up in all the wrong ways for the ones we love. Kelsey says, “In our day-to-day lives, we have opportunity after opportunity to show up empathetically for the people around us. But often we fail – or we confuse empathy with something else entirely.” In her article, she also shares a video where Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, explains the difference between actual genuine empathy and not-so-genuine sympathy. Take a peek…
So, how do we experience Empathy?
Here’s a real-life example…Say you bought a fridge, 3ish years ago, and one hot July day (right before the 4th of July, actually) said refrigerator dies…like dead…melted popsicles all over the floor, dead. So you are very frustrated because again the fridge is only 3 years old, and “how can it possibly not be working.?”
First step, try to fix it yourself. Is it plugged in?… Check. Is there anything stuck or blocking something that shouldn’t be blocked…Nope, Check. Is there gunk all up in the back of the fridge. Yep, word to the wise…put that on your spring cleaning list. Nothing works…
While you are so frustrated that your having to deal with a dead, 3-year-old fridge, in the middle of summer, and all your kids want is a popsicle, you pick up the phone and dial the number. It’s ringing…meanwhile you’re reminding yourself…”yes, I’m frustrated, but not take that frustration out on the person on the other side of the phone.
For one, it’s not their fault that your refrigerator doesn’t work, in the middle of summer, with your kids screaming for a popsicle in the background. And you’re not going to get anywhere by letting your frustration show or taking it out on that person. You never know what the other person is dealing with their lives. They could’ve just gotten off the line with another customer who was yelling and screaming at them, they may have things going on in their personal lives, outside of work, or they may be a single parent, trying to do the best they can for their kids.
Remember, be kind, even in those frustrating situations, the other people you come in contact with will appreciate it, and you’ll feel better about the way the situation was handled too!
When should we use empathy?
- Wanting to understand someone better.
- When we find ourselves arguing unproductively with someone.
- Having trouble connecting emotionally to a friend or loved one.
- Wanting to calm our tempers and manage our emotions.
- Figuring out how best to describe and un-ideal situation.
All it takes is truly picturing yourself in someone else’s shoes. Be kind…like the quote says…Kindness is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere!
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