If we all hope to become angels, we must earn our wings from displaying empathy. Empathy involves removing your emotional shoes, slipping into someone else’s pair and walking comfortably. Empathy does not cause you to neglect your own emotions. On the contrary, obtaining the understanding necessary to display empathy may heighten your awareness of your emotions and assist in resolution efforts. Empathy also guides you to help others and heal negative feelings. This help may be in the form of an encouraging word or a listening ear, but empathy commonly manifests itself through charitable works.
Empathy is your acknowledgment of another’s emotions. The ability to identify your own negative emotions will help you acknowledge the emotions of another. If you can look in the mirror and notice what causes your grief, you can easily recognize symptoms of grief in another person. By examining yourself, you become more willing to understand others.
Empathy is more about the peaceful consensus of two spirits than an agreement of two minds. You are entitled to your own opinions and ideas. Such entitlement does not excuse you from listening to others. Listening is one of the most powerful tools in effective communication. When you listen, you may not agree with everything that is spoken. You may not feel exactly the same way that the speaker is feeling. Empathy occurs at the point that you actively listen and communicate your understanding of what you heard, even if what you heard was not agreeable. This is the time to ask clarifying questions and seek understanding. This is not the time for stubbornness, divisiveness or a closed mind. Resolution requires peaceful consensus and collaboration.
You have to see outside your own world. If you’re so entwined in your day-to-day routine that you find it difficult to acknowledge the feelings of others, your attitude requires an adjustment. You do not live on this planet alone. In fact, your existence would be fairly meaningless without the presence of other human beings. Many relationships fail due to participants who are engulfed by their routines. The cries of one partner may fall on deaf ears due to life’s demands that have been placed on the other partner. It is important to silence the buzz of your own life from time to time to provide those near to you with the emotional support they deserve.
Empathy does not permanently silence your concerns. While you may momentarily silence yourself to listen to the concerns of someone else, you must care for others and protect your emotional well-being simultaneously. Caring for others includes active listening and doing what you can to support them in action and word. Caring for others does not mean that you turn your body into an emotional dumping ground for the burdens of others. You can sacrifice yourself in the name of others without depleting your storage of positive energy.
Protecting your emotional well-being includes reminding yourself that you cannot repair every issue that you are presented with. You can provide emotional support through listening and discussion, but taking on someone else’s burden as your own will drain you emotionally and physically. Your concerns may be temporarily suppressed in order for you to approach their situation with care, but be mindful not to let the dimness in someone else destroy your light. Your ability to step out of someone else’s situations to handle your own issues reinforces your resilience.
Do not allow people to throw their problems on you. When people are able to cast their emotional stones on you, you are forced to attempt to juggle both your burdens and theirs. Do not become a carry-all for the problems of others. Listen intently. Respond with care. Support endlessly. You may hold the emotional weight of dialogue, but do not leave the conversation carrying burdens that are meant for others.
Empathy does not demand an inefficient use of your energy. It is a convenient escape from your problems to dive into the project of fixing someone else’s life. However, doing so depletes your energy and impairs your decisions. Each day, you have a finite amount of energy to devote to your goals. If you expend the majority of your energy entangled in the decisions of another, when will you have time to accomplish your objectives? Your focus should be to help the individual to the best of your ability, not to take the pain away from the individual. Coping is something that each of us must do. Pair your emotional intelligence with pragmatism to effectively respond to the emotions of others and complete your own emotional and physical work.
In your past life, you were the worst kind of people-pleaser. You wanted to be accepted. You wanted to be liked. You wanted to have a positive impact on the lives of others. You empathized with every adverse condition that you encountered in others, and you rushed to the aid of anyone that you considered needy. What you did not realize is that those that you deemed charity cases needed your love, time and attention much more than they needed those little green notes that filled your bank accounts.
If the electric utilities were at risk of being disconnected, you received a call. If the rent was a little short, you received a call. If the car note was two months behind, you received a call. But you began to notice that you never received a call for the major events that you deemed important, such as a loved one being rushed to the hospital, birthday celebrations, school awards ceremonies, or church gatherings.
When things went wrong financially, you received a call, because you had proven to others that you were far more financially available than you were emotionally available. When things were okay for them financially, you were left alone. You were a human automated teller machine. Instead of being a center for empathy and understanding, your interactions were limited to sheer economics, currency, and convenience. You allowed people to bankrupt you emotionally to help you feel better about working so much, hence avoiding crucial emotional exchanges. You felt that assisting anyone in their times of financial crisis was enough. You didn’t know what to do at the time, so you just fell on your knees to pray. You pleaded with God to provide you with a solution. The response that you received from God: Their money problems are not your problem. The emotional void that you created between the two of you is yours. Why are you worried about money issues that don’t belong to you if you belong to me? More importantly, why are you not worried about how you make others feel?
When you stopped answering the calls from the welfare line that you had created and started making calls to repair damaged relationships, your level of inner-peace sky-rocketed. You were able to find joy in small things and work on building relationships that weren’t based on the superficial. You were able to rely on yourself for your happiness. You became more loyal to your gut instinct and established a better sense of your core values.
Empathizing without taking on the problems of the other person is not just a favor to you. It is more of a gift to the other person. You are helping them to rely on themselves and build their identity. You are assisting their self-esteem and positively affecting their future decision-making. Just imagine what the outcome would have been if you would have recommended financial education classes to others, instead of just throwing money at their problems. Payment of one electric bill lasts a month. The knowledge gained from a personal finance seminar lasts a lifetime.
Empathy requires us to assess the needs of ourselves and others. If you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, or a person by their appearance, reading is necessary. You must read the verbal and nonverbal responses of others. Your understanding improves by delving deeper into what the person is saying or not saying, considering the circumstances and responding with care. Identifying a victim other than yourself may be a sign that you are effectively displaying empathy.
Be careful not to rush to conclusions. Impatience causes emotional disruption and poor decision-making. Empathy and anger cannot abide with one another. If resolution is your goal, anger should be out of your reach. Anger is rooted in the fear that your intended outcome will not be realized. Anger is also related to impatience, in that those that anger easily tends to experience anxiety as a result of waiting. Anger stands in the way of empathy. A person consumed by anger becomes blind to the needs of others. The negative thought patterns that guide anger can be so powerful that the angry individual defies all logic in action and word.
In your past relationships, your anger would lead you to disconnect from the relationship prematurely. You later realized that breaking up just to return to your partner with an apology and open arms wasn’t the best relationship-building technique. Additionally, you dated individuals who would throw tantrums in their anger by destroying mobile phones, breaking glass and throwing dishes of food. A spirit of anger is not conducive to resolution. Ultimately, relationships must be restored to a point of humanity in order for resolution to occur. To defy the human instinct of compassion is not logical. This is why the glass ultimately gets cleaned up, the phones get replaced and closed arms become open – because it is not human to stop caring instantly. An angry heart is not an open heart. Replace the fear and anxiousness with empathy, a heart to understand and a mind to reason with.
Empathy unites, and solidarity divides. You live in a society that praises uniqueness without acknowledging commonality. Cultural messages constantly guide us to let go of things that don’t serve us in business and personal partnerships. Balance is needed. You can acknowledge another person’s point of view without losing sight of what you need from them. You should be able to make your requests known and listen to the requests of others. Frequently, the requests aren’t aligned with one another. While the requests may not agree, the understanding obtained through empathy allows each side to be in a better position to meet in the middle to resolve issues. In this manner, empathy is conducive to assimilation. Conversely, solidarity focuses on the needs of the individual without regard to others. Such individualistic thought processes may lead to the demise of valuable relationships, due to elements of compromise and negotiation not being considered. Humanity requires an optimal dose of nurturing empathy and fair solidarity in order to forge into the future.