Has your heart grown colder over the past two years? Or have you always had trouble understanding and relating to other people’s feelings?
Empathy is the ability to understand how another person feels AND care about their feelings without judgment or pity .
Many people confuse empathy with sympathy. They are similar, but there’s a crucial difference.
When you feel sympathy , you feel sorry for that person’s problems, as in you’re sorry they’re having a problem . But you don’t necessarily understand how they feel about that problem . You risk reacting incorrectly or saying the wrong things because you don’t understand their feelings.
So how can we learn to be more empathetic?
The key to empathy is self-awareness. Being aware of our OWN feelings, motivations, fears, beliefs, weaknesses, etc. makes it easier to recognize those things in other people.
The overuse of social media and technology as opposed to actual interaction has made it harder for people to understand and care about each other.
Staring at a phone while someone is trying to talk to you makes it impossible to see their facial expressions and body language and less likely you’ll even hear everything they say or their tone of voice.
Humans need to be aware of those things to fully understand and have empathy for others.
But we are so out of touch with our own feelings , motivations , etc, that it’s very difficult to interpret other’s.
How do we build self-awareness?
- Make it a point to become more self-aware. Simply recognizing your lack of self-awareness is a huge step in the right direction!
- Do a little pre-test. Ask yourself how in touch with yourself you really are? Do you act or react ? Do you think or or are you on autopilot? Are you honest with yourself about your motivations , fears, weaknesses?
- Be kind to yourself if you realize you’ve become a bit robotic . It’s the world we live in!
- Look at the benefits of being more self-aware. You’ll be less likely to make dumb mistakes, more popular with people who value honesty, and you’ll develop empathy!
- Make friends with people who have these traits: self-awareness, empathy, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, honesty , and avoid spending too much time with those who have these traits: blaming, criticizing, sarcasm, hold grudges , bad tempered, attention-seeking, or self-hating.
- Love yourself like God loves you, flaws and all. Not like a false self-esteem, knowing that you were made by God and you have value simply for that . It’s really true that you can’t love others if you hate yourself!
- Listen to people closely when they talk . Ask yourself what emotions are they showing on their face and with their posture and hands.
- Watch videos on YouTube about facial expressions and body language. You can learn a lot quickly by watching videos .
- Don’t beat yourself up. Some of us are less empathetic by nature. But we can learn!
- Do self-work to get to your underlying fears and motivations. This could mean counseling or reading books or simply talking it out with a trusted friend. This can be difficult as we may not want to feel those feelings that we’ve suppressed as a defense mechanism for many years. But only when you’re FREE to feel your own pain, happiness, fear, vulnerability and love, and risk being hurt, can you truly become empathetic.
That last sentence bears repeating . Only when you’re FREE to feel your own pain, happiness, fear, vulnerability and love, and risk being hurt, can you truly become empathetic. If you won’t allow yourself to have those feelings, you are likely to turn away when others show them because you’ll feel uncomfortable.
A lack of empathy can be simply being too selfish to care, but it can also be forgetting that people have feelings. So I hope you’ll try these steps and become more aware of yourself and others.