The Power of Empathy

Enjoy this re-post about the power of empathy, especially in difficult relationships.


One of our fundamental needs as human beings is to be heard and to be accepted as we are. Take a moment to recall where you were going through a hard time and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I expect.

When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged; we no longer feel alone; we feel understood; we become calmer; we usually feel better and are more able to handle a difficult  situation.

empathy babies

Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open loving way.  It feels good to us, yet how often do we intentionally or mindfully empathize with someone else … especially when someone is angry or frustrated?
Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how it can be especially difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources and those who are closest to us.
One of my favorite take aways is:

“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”

When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “but” and a “fix” for the other person. Yet empathy is more powerful and empowering.

He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”

Why not increase your ability to empathize with this exercise:

frustrated man at work

Over the next few days see if you can empathize more with those people who are closest to you, your children, a colleague, or even your boss.

Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through. Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:

It sounds like you are really frustrated about this

I can see that this is tough for you

I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard

I’m sensing that this is scary for you

I hear that you are concerned

It sounds like this is a real challenge for you

but in your face

 It sounds so simple, yet can be hard to do in that moment. So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.

Give the gift of feeling heard and understood.

The Power of Empathy

Enjoy this re-post about the power of empathy, especially in difficult relationships.

oooOooo

One of our fundamental needs as human beings is to be heard and to be accepted as we are. Take a moment to recall a time where you were going through a hard time and someone empathized with you. How did it feel? Pretty good I expect…

When someone empathizes with us we don’t feel judged; we no longer feel alone; we feel understood; we become calmer; we usually feel better and are more able to handle a difficult  situation.

empathy babies

Empathy is a powerful tool for connecting to another person in an open loving way.  It feels good to us, yet how often do we intentionally empathize with someone else … especially when someone is angry or frustrated?
Marshall Rosenberg writes in his book “Non Violent Communication; a Language of Life“ how it can be especially difficult to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status or resources and those who are closest to us.
One of my favorite take aways is:

“Empathize, rather than put your “but” in the face of an angry person.”

When we want to help we tend to jump in with a “but” and a “fix” for the other person. Yet empathy is more powerful and empowering.

He writes: “I continue to be amazed by the healing power of empathy. Time and again I have witnessed people transcending psychological pain when they have contact with someone who hears them with empathy.”

Why not increase your ability to empathize with this exercise:

Over the next few days see if you can empathize more with those people who are closest to you, colleagues at work and even your boss.frustrated man at work

Really tune in to what they might be feeling and reflect back what you are sensing they are going through.

Here are some examples of reflecting feelings statements:

It sounds like you are really frustrated about this

I can see that this is tough for you

I can’t imagine all that you are going through. It must be so hard

I’m sensing that this is scary for you

I hear that you are concerned

It sounds like this is a real challenge for you

 but in your faceIt sounds so simple, yet can be hard to do in that moment. So instead of putting your “but” and point of view in the other person’s face, empathize with their situation and reflect what they might be feeling.

Give the gift of feeling heard and understood.

 

* Life isn’t personal

confounded man

“When you realize it’s not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were.”    ~ Eckhart Tolle

“Stepping into the role of detached observer allows us to let things be as they are while maintaining balance.” ~ Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way

“When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy, and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

As Don Miguel Ruiz says: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality.”

Let’s think about it. Imagine interacting with the same person in two different situations.

In the first encounter, this person has had a terrific day. They got a good night’s sleep and everything has gone their way every since. They feel great! How do you think they’re going to treat us? Probably pretty well, right?

Now we encounter the same person. This time, they got a really bad night’s  sleep, got into a car accident on the way to work, forgot their iPhone, forgot to eat, and realized they missed a crucial deadline. They are not in such a good mood. How do you think they’re going to treat us now? …. Oh oh watch out and keep your head down!

The important thing to note here is that WE were exactly the same in both situations.

Yet, if we base our opinion of ourselves on how someone else treats us, the world becomes a fearful unstable place and we lose touch with our own reality. We seek answers outside of ourself rather than from within.

Take a moment to pause here and reflect on the last time you were upset with someone. Perhaps you were taking their behavior too personally.

People have bad days. Upsetting things happen. We all experience the highs and lows of life.

Take time to pause and find your middle ground.

Life isn’t personal.

pick yourself up

* Hyper critical

mother daughter conflict

Are you being hyper critical right now in relationship to one or more people?
Take a moment and consider… Are others consistently irritating you and annoying you?

When we become hyper critical it is usually because we are repressing a feeling … which is usually of resentment towards someone.

Are you resenting someone’s behavior towards you?

Has his or her behavior triggered you and touched a tender place where you don’t feel appreciated or loved? Perhaps there is an unmet need for respect and appreciation.

As human beings we all have basic needs: to feel safe, express ourselves, belong, feel loved and appreciated.

Perhaps you are playing the “martyr” game, a tactic of pretending that something is all right with you while subtly signaling that it is not, and possibly trying to make others feel guilty for their behavior.

Most of us are unconscious of this … its not something our ego is likely to acknowledge.

Taking time right now to acknowledge that this may be the case, will open up compassion for yourself.

See beyond the resentment and anger to the hurt and longing to be seen and loved for who you are. You are worthy of love and respect.

It takes courage to say what you really mean and put your feelings on the line.
Yet this is the only way to heal and move past the struggle.

 

* We Can’t Change Another Person But We Can …

Its one of the hardest lessons in the highs and lows of life. Accepting that others really are different and we can’t change them … no matter how much we want it!

mother daughter conflict

We can never make an other person change, no matter how hard we try. We can make requests. We can show them how we want them to be. We can manipulate them or even resort to nagging and bullying … but in the end it will always be up to them.  They have to be willing to change themselves.

As adult human beings we only have the ability to change ourselves.

We do have options however! That is what this post is about. You can apply this checklist at work, at home and in any situation where you are having difficulty with an other person.

Here are the 5 options I share with my clients and would now like to share with you.

Before you jump ahead, take a moment to think about a recent difficult interaction and how you wished that person would change in some way.

pause

Now consider these 5 approaches.

1. Can you make a request of them? Can you share with them the impact of their behavior and how you feel, then request a different behavior?

2. Can you change your own actions? How might you have contributed to this situation? What can you do differently?

3. Can you change your thinking and re-frame by seeing things from different perspectives? From their perspective? And as an observer?

4. Can you open our heart and find empathy for the other person as an imperfect human being? … just like you! Can you accept them for who they are, faults and all? This is the spiritual path of acceptance and compassion.

5. The final option is the remove yourself from their company. Step away and regroup. You can review these options and if it keeps coming to option 5, then consider making a break from this person.

So next time when you realize you are expecting someone else to change, instead of going over the same old frustrating negative thoughts and habitual responses, try a new mindful approach.

And keep practicing …

I certainly still am!

Hugs,

Val