Forget Everything You’ve Heard About Empathy!
Empathy is a powerful yet overlooked tool and character trait these days. It seems that jumping to conclusions has become a new social norm. The book, The Power of Empathy : A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding and Lasting Love, by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli has this to say about empathy:
I define empathy as the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another.
For the purpose of this post, we have two categories of people, those who are un-empathetic and those who are empathetic. We will explore both types and how to become more empathetic.
A person who lacks empathy has these two characteristics:
- They are quick to react adversely to triggers while blaming outside circumstances or others for their current feelings.
- Instead of placing themselves in another person’s shoes, they tend to jump to conclusions without giving the other person an opportunity to express their truth.
Those who struggle with empathy are every bit as hard on themselves as they are on others. They probably learned the behavior from parents who were critical of them while they were younger. As adults, this takes the form of the “critical parent voice” in the individual, and actually stems from a limiting belief about them. Those who struggle with empathy are easy to spot, they are usually critical of others, opinionated, harsh, and jump to conclusions. When they feel wounded or wronged, they are particularly reactive and will lash out in a bitter way. In one aspect of our life or another, we have all struggled with this; it is an integral part of each of our journeys.
Empathy Listens & Asks Questions
The single biggest aspect of an empathetic person is their ability to listen to what others are saying and then form an informed opinion based on what was communicated. A “question” is the tool which they will utilize while they are actively listening to another. Although you can control a conversation very easily through questions and listening, the motive is very different, it is to try to understand where the other person is coming from, to place yourself in their shoes. In the words of the author,
Empathetic listening is always centered on the other person, and its goal is to make the other feel uniquely understood.
Some may confuse being a sympathetic listener with being an empathetic one; however, the sympathetic listener is actually listening in the hopes of interjecting their own experiences, listening to be heard instead of listening to understand. Sympathy is easily confused with empathy, but it is quite different, for when we try to link our beliefs and thoughts with that of another, we are sympathizing. Sympathy is a form of projection, and sounds like this, “I know what you are going through” and “I understand exactly what you are feeling”. But do we really? Is it really possible to understand another person’s truth?
However, empathy is a way to “connect with the other person’s emotions without being carried away by them” (The Power of Empathy, pg 65). An empathetic question would say “please tell me more, although I may never understand, I still want to try”.
Empathy Can Be Learned
According to the author, empathy can be learned, and it is done so by being around those who are empathetic and model such behavior. EFT is a great tool that also asks questions, it is a form of empathetic meditation that seeks to understand what the feelings of the moment are telling us about the past. It is a process that fits nicely with empathy because it traces back and helps correct our root beliefs and feelings. Once the roots are cleared, the over-reactions of the present will be muted, having been replaced with the ability to slow down and ask more questions.
Combined, empathy & EFT can help us in two ways:
- They can train us to be better listeners by asking more questions of ourselves and others.
- They can remove the root beliefs and feelings that cause our adverse (and sometimes nuclear) reactions.
EFT coaches, practitioners, and therapists are adept in the art of asking questions, as they are able to ask the tough ones needed to unearth the root issues and memories found deep inside the client. If you do not have an EFT partner, do not worry, you can become more empathetic just by learning the EFT process. The more you practice asking yourself questions and diving into your troubles, the more you will learn to listen and ask questions of others.
Do you think of yourself as a good listener or do you struggle with your critical parent voice? Do you find yourself asking questions or jumping to conclusions? Are you a sympathetic listener or an empathetic one? How has EFT helped you to become more empathetic? Please comment below, I would love to hear from you about your experiences with empathy and EFT!
Disclaimer #1: The information and coaching I provide is intended to educate, inform, and inspire you on your personal journey towards optimal health. It is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, nor is it intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are under the care of any health professionals, I strongly encourage you to discuss modifications in your diet, lifestyle, exercise program, nutrition, or use of EFT (Meridian Tapping) with them prior to making any changes, and never discontinue or reduce prescription medications without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.
Disclaimer #2: Although this blog is not a large money maker for me, I still do make something from it each month. I do this via generous donations from my readers (via the PayPal "donate" button on the right of each article), but also from affiliate links within my blog posts. Any link to a book will generate a few pennies for me from Amazon.com should you purchase it. Also, I will make a small commission from any product purchased from my advertising on the right side of each blog post.