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Empathy

Posted by onyx 
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Empathy
February 04, 2011 10:16PM
Ok guys, putting my hand up to admit I have a problem with EMPATHY. I particularly notice it in relationships that are close to me; Wifey and kids. sad smiley

Looking back I can see that it was instilled in me at an early age, that empathy is NOT cool. 'Oh diddums!' was the sarcastic response to anyone in a circumstance.

And the attendant attitude of not caring stuck.

Now I am determined to stop the rot... I found this about empathy:
Quote
hodu.com
We could all take a lesson from nurses about being empathetic. Time and again, nurses rate as the most trusted profession. They make people feel safe and cared for.

Even the best nurses, however, can learn tools for improving their empathy. In fact, most people who score high on assessments in the area of empathy often have no idea what they do; they just know that they like people, they enjoy working with and helping people, and they value people as individuals.

In a recent presentation to healthcare professionals on empathy in New York City, the audience concurred that healthcare professionals do exhibit empathy most of the time - to their patients. When asked about the use of empathy with colleagues or with family or even with themselves, the audience seemed pretty certain they could do a better job.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person. The positive psychology definition is: The quality of feeling and understanding another person's situation in the present moment -- their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions) -- and communicating this to the person. So you know what they are feeling, or at least you suspect you know what they are experiencing, and you communicate that to elicit further discussion or clarification.

Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, there are four clusters of competencies and eighteen competencies. The four clusters are:
Self-Awareness
Self-Management
Social Awareness
Relationship Management
Empathy falls under Social Awareness. This skill reflects a person's ability to connect with others and to relate to them which is an essential skill in building and managing healthy relationships. Without the ability to understand what another is going through, our relationships remain superficial and without the depth and richness that occurs when we share an emotional connection. Opportunity is lost.

Why is empathy important?

Without empathy, people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. Each of us has differing perspectives. We all experience moods, pain and hurt, joy and sadness. And we are so limited when we only see our own perspective. Without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even divorce. People do not feel heard or understood.

A client reported that a recent radio program surveyed its listeners on how they knew they were loved and they responded that they knew they were loved when they felt heard. In surveys with employees on what makes a good manager, people want to feel like their manager listens to them. This is a huge issue.

When leaders and parents and teachers listen, really listen, using empathy to understand what the person is thinking or feeling without trying to change them or fix them or solve their problem, the person feels valued as a human being. And when people feel valued, they feel safe. They feel that they matter. And this means they are free to be themselves and to perform their work. In other words, employees are more productive when they feel valued.

The power of empathy

When you use empathy to understand why someone is angry or when a child is acting out, for instance, you might learn that something happened at home that is upsetting them for instance, their mother is ill, or the child has no food at home to eat and is hungry. Instead of reacting to the emotions of another or becoming defensive, you can ask questions about their behavior or emotional state. There still may need to be discipline or consequences to their behavior, but by using empathy first, the person feels valued and heard and therefore, will more easily accept responsibility for their actions.
Empathy is the missing link in families, in our schools, and in our workplaces. As we grow up, kids can often be mean to each other. If we start teaching empathy in grade school and middle school, then perhaps we would grow up being more loving and tolerant and understanding of each other.

Empathy and compassion

Compassion means to care. It is the desire "to alleviate one's suffering." In order to be empathetic, we need to care or the person will not share their feelings. They will not feel safe to open up to us. Without compassion, we would not spend the time listening to another. We would not bother to ask them about their experience. We wouldn't care what they are thinking or feeling. Compassion is a necessary component for empathy.

Challenges to empathy

What does it take to be more empathetic? Why don't we do it more often?

1. For one thing, it requires we pay attention. Too often we are in our own heads; we have our own agenda. We are busy. So we don't pay attention to what others are thinking or feeling. In order to improve, we need to be more self-aware and more aware of others. For example, the next time you ask someone how they are doing, listen to their response. Do you believe them? Are they really okay? Ask yourself if you care to learn more. If so, then ask them a question or share your observation.

2. It takes time. In our fast paced world, people just keep moving. Empathy requires that we stop and take the time to care. "What is going on for you; you look like you have something on your mind?"

3. Your self-esteem gets in the way. When your mind is so busy with negative thoughts about you, then you don't have the space to really be present for another person. Often people think they are empathetic but when you consider what are you thinking about when you are listening to the person, you may find that you are busy thinking about you - how the person thinks about you, if they like you, that you should be doing something else, or you're not going to be able to help them…blah, blah, blah.

4. There is history between you that you carry as baggage. The longer you know a person, the more history you have with them, the harder it is to put that aside and simply be with them. You have developed a preconditioned response which you will need to be aware of and stop in order to truly open the connection with this person. Look at them with new eyes. Leave your baggage at the door. Tell a new story about your relationship. This one is not easy.

5. You are a professional problem-solver. You believe that if someone shares something that you automatically need to fix it for them. This is not empathy. This is about you, not them, and your need to impress or be right. It removes the responsibility for solving their problem and places it in your lap. It diminishes the person and makes them feel devalued.

Empathy is a choice. We have to choose to improve, to care, to get out of our own way, and to bridge the gaps between us - generations, cultures, religions, socioeconomics, etc. Empathy allows us to be fully human and gives others permission to do the same.

Those points 1-5 hit me right between the eyes... me 'To a T'.

So, I guess I am asking for prayer, but more than that I am asking to be held accountable for any times you see a lack of empathy from me.

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.
- Lenny Bruce
Re: Empathy
February 04, 2011 10:43PM
Well, Onyx.......

we (the Jackson's or the "Js" ) still luv ya regardless Group Hug - you know that we choose our friends very carefully ......... (and don't have time for shallow friendships).....

... so - empathetic or not - we like hanging out with you guys!

You graciously welcome us into your home and love us all in return - faults/warts and all.

You have shown me empathy by vacating the lounge and moving to your office, when it's been obvious that I need to have 'girl time' with Wifey and vent ....

I will try to hold you accountable but it is a two-way street!!!!!

I appreciate your friendship!
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 01:45PM
Onyx,

Interesting, I am sure you are improving. I am having a hard time getting my 14 yr old daughter to understand this. I am not asking her to be like me but would like her to understand it. She has had a hard last few years and no one has been nice or
empathetic to her. In todays society I don't see alot of this. I have lived in New England for the last 17 yrs and it is so different from my midwest upbring. It actually upset her when I ask her to put herself in someone else shoe, I get asked why no one else does it. So I keep trying hopefully something of me will rub off.
Quote
onyx
nurses rate as the most trusted profession. They make people feel safe and cared for.
This makes me feel good. I love being a nurse and taking care of people.

News flash:
God is not angry with you. He loves you.
If you don't believe that,
or think it's too good to be true,
or that I'm making it up - ask Him! smiling smiley
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 02:01PM
I especially like #3. This one is very telling. I find that I ask how people are (#1) and follow up with a "slow down, I'm gonna listen, so you can really answer this" question (#2), but then,,... my mind wanders. I don't mean for it to, I just start worrying about what to say next (#3-- about me), how can I help (#3 and #5).

I just listened to the "Free Believer's podcast with Heather". It was VERY Good -- don't know how I missed it when Shelly first posted it (in the Theatre). That podcast fits right into #3 for me.

I see both of these (this empathy topic and the podcast) leading me to the same conclusion:
"BE in the PRESENT".

When I'm "in the present", I'm not so worried about myself and it's easier to care about others. Actually being in the Present kind of solves all 5 of the empathy points.... Interesting.

Thanks for sharing this Onyx!!
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 02:24PM
Hi Toni,
I think you and I posted about the same time. :-) I wanted to share something else.

When I was 10-11, I was bullied. They (one girl in particular, Hana) made fun of me daily. "Teri the fairy who lives in the hairy house." <--That was my least favorite.
About this time they started a special program at my school -- they read us a book series about putting ourselves in others shoes. I wished and wished (prayed) that Hana would HEAR it and stop teasing me. I remember one time while wishing, something in me switched. It was like the world of what it was like to be Hana opened up. All of a sudden, she wasn't so perfect and her problems (probably why she picked on me) became real to me. Then, her teasing didn't bother me so much, and it soon stopped.

I think that by praying / wishing that she could see me (have empathy for me), I began to see her.

So here is an idea:
Ask your daughter to think of something nice that she could do in secret for the bully. (I realize that there are probably a few bullies, so just ask her to pick one of them.) Not that she has to do it (please don't make her actually do it), but just to think about what the bully might need (preferably emotionally).
And it might help your daughter to take herself out of the picture; we can't think about someone else's heart when we are overcome by our own pain. So, maybe she could imagine herself as a parent or a teacher in the bully's past. What in the past could have changed who the bully is / how the bully behaves now?

If she can think about what the bully might need (other than a spanking winking smiley ), that is a start to empathy.

Did I solve the problem? (#5) Did I give the "RIGHT" answer? grinning smiley
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 02:30PM
Last time, promise...

I thought of something else. "Sarah, Plain & Tall" is a good movie (I think) that deals with learning to understand where another person is coming from, why they have the issues they have. :-)

(sigh) Feeling for your daughter, Toni. Hugs to you and yours.
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 02:52PM
Theresa,
Thanks for all the ideas. We are working on some of them. She goes to therapy every week and that is some of the stuff they are working on. Also makes it hard when one of the girls was her best friends until they hit 7th grade. Now she picks on her but I think it is because her home life is falling apart. When I tell my daughter that she answers with thats not a reason my home life fell apart and I didn't act like that. But every one reacts different. So hopefully thing will get better. After a period of withdrawing from everything she is getting back out there slowly. I know that Papa watches out for her and she is beginning to see that and trust it.

Also think that Glee might be helping too. They have a bullying storyline so she is seeing them deal with it.
Hope everyone stays safe and warm.

News flash:
God is not angry with you. He loves you.
If you don't believe that,
or think it's too good to be true,
or that I'm making it up - ask Him! smiling smiley
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 05:42PM
It can be very injuring to a young girl's heart. So glad she has support.
I know it's not comforting to hear, but it may be good for her to know that although a falling-apart-home-life is not an excuse, it may be a reason. May not help the feelings going on right now, but it's a yucky fact of life -- even in adulthood....
( I like that the main girl in Glee doesn't get bitter. How does she DO that? :-) )
Re: Empathy
February 05, 2011 09:14PM
Group HugGood sharing guys...

Here's a bit of classic Dilbert humour for the mix...



Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.
- Lenny Bruce

Re: Empathy
February 06, 2011 01:06AM
This is a great thread and I appreciate what everyone has said, there was a "spark" in me that was started by something each of you shared.

I keep thinking of the Wounded Healer. Jesus is the best one, he who was wounded the most is the one who heals the best. And how when we have scars and damage in our lives, it's from those places we have the most empathy (literal translation: "feeling with"winking smiley for others. I wonder if sometimes we get too far away from our wounds too safe, too complacent, too OK. we lose touch with how it feels to be lonely, rejected, betrayed, unloved. Not that we're supposed to walk around all wounded all the time, but...maybe God allows the wounds to happen in our lives to give us the gift of empathy?
Re: Empathy
February 07, 2011 08:25AM
Quote
C Shell
This is a great thread and I appreciate what everyone has said, there was a "spark" in me that was started by something each of you shared.

I keep thinking of the Wounded Healer. Jesus is the best one, he who was wounded the most is the one who heals the best. And how when we have scars and damage in our lives, it's from those places we have the most empathy (literal translation: "feeling with"winking smiley for others. I wonder if sometimes we get too far away from our wounds too safe, too complacent, too OK. we lose touch with how it feels to be lonely, rejected, betrayed, unloved. Not that we're supposed to walk around all wounded all the time, but...maybe God allows the wounds to happen in our lives to give us the gift of empathy?

Yeah, I think you are onto something here Shell. He does have a purpose for every dark place in our lives, regardless of how much we wish they were not.

I think there are also some temperaments/personality types that are better suited to empathy also. If anyone follows Dilbert; I am very much a Dilbert. The typical engineer. Ever hopefully naive, socially inept, gullible, wanting to fix every issue with a technical solution (#5 above) to prove how smart I am (or something!). Scott Adams gets it right as he develops Dilbert through the years, with many digs at my industry, and the types of people in it.
Other types are the Mother Theresas of this world, seemingly able to get down to anyone's level without patronising...

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.
- Lenny Bruce
Re: Empathy
February 07, 2011 10:20PM
Something I have been thinking about, and I dont know if it fits in this thread maybe it does. It's the John 17 in the world but not of it line, I have seen so many "Christians" use it as a get out clause for not having any contact with any thing or one that isn't Christian. Ive been there got the Jesus loves me t shirt in coke style lettering and come out the other side.

How can you have empathy for someone you feel better than, I am saved redeemed a person belonging to god I don't want to get my hands dirty or risk my holiness by getting close to the unclean, the great unwashed.

But did Jesus die for me when I was holy or when I was a dirty dirty sinner, and in his time he mixed touched and laughed with prostitutes, thieves and gutter mouths likes me. That is empathy, yes he came to fix to restore but his primary aim was relationship. A relationship with the broken not the fixed, I haven't quite worked this out because I was taught that sin was the barrier to relationship, but it seems that Jesus makes the first move inspite of sin to draw us near draw us in to then fix.

I spent 30 years living in a world with the saved and 2 in the world of the broken, I know where I found god more real and in evidence
Re: Empathy
February 08, 2011 05:33PM
Quote
J(uk)
How can you have empathy for someone you feel better than

oooooOOOOooooo I don't know Good one.
Re: Empathy
February 08, 2011 07:08PM
well I guess it depends on two things..there's experience to draw from and trying to imagine.

we are best used where we probably are geographically to experience. Anyone divorced?? yeah I can relate on that one.

And a host of other things.

Somethings I have no idea.This to me creates to ideas of grace..Either I got to tell my wife..Look I have no clue what that's like OR I lower the expectations of trying to demand that others relate to me..both..very tough..

I just ask that you trust me..and that I trust that you are experiencing this or that.....

Nothing on earth ever prepared me for being a husband, father, son or believer and neighbor.
Re: Empathy
February 08, 2011 11:05PM
Jeff I agree to a point, experience does help, but for me there has seemed to be a Christian switch that changes people from unsaved "normal people" to saved people who suddenly struggle to relate to the great unwashed, this maybe just a uk thing I don't know, but I have met very few Christians who have as many unchurched non Christian friends as Christian. As if they jump from being in the world to not of the world, and it is a divide that saddens me. I long to sit in my pub with a mixture of Christian and non Christian friends rather than having to church or home groups or bizarrely pub quizzes in homes not pubs to socialise with Christians because Christians don't feel comfortable in the pub, and I know the non Christians wouldn't feel comfortable in church.

I love the Bon jovi song everybodies broken, I may be saved redeemed but I am still grateful to know I am broken and can share in others brokeness
Re: Empathy
February 09, 2011 04:18AM
when I first came to a revelation of Jesus back in the 80's I didn't leave my crowd of ( I guess you call blokes) friends..I still went to the pubs and put a few down..I found that I loved them even more..but then I eventually wound up at a local church.

Although I thought I was getting a good education spiritually and what I naturally progressed to by finding that sort of fellowship what i didn't realize is..( especially here in the states) is that Christianity is a culture unto itself. It was implied that such a move to remove myself form the world is "holy" kind of move. But it left me confused,distant and cold..

I guess it feeds on the notion that we have to leave this version of our lives to pursue some sort of pristine adventure and righteous living..I don't know..I don't associate with the term "Christian" anymore becasue it has been hijacked into an image I can no longer live under or recognize.

I'm back with my friends again on Fb..and I once again feel at home in one world of that which is creation..and in that of a believer..

the section of the states I live in is referred to as the Bible belt. It's very strange..I tried to expalin to one of my other forum exchange friends form England....


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/09/2011 04:23AM by radio roswell.
Re: Empathy
February 09, 2011 09:23AM
I can imagine living in bb can have it's own set of rules! Does everyone have to believe but few talk of a relationship with papa?

I really don't want seem judgemental or that I have it right I just have a longing to be joined in the real world by fellow believers who are prepared to have real believer based conversations with real people not just talk church with the churched.
Re: Empathy
February 09, 2011 01:26PM
Well it does and it doesn't..The BB is weird because..every new Evangelical wave comes through first it seems..going to church here is like going to your kids weekly soccer match..it just is..and the traditions of it all are not really questioned..

I drive around Sunday morning and it's vacant..no traffic at all..t's a bit different from the north but not so much in that..the north THINKS they are not being in any form of " Churchianity"..but they are..they feel more relevant and less traditional..I guess cause it's the more urban hip vibe projects that.

AS far as being empathetic..I do understand the church culture. I was in it..did the whole routine and was part of the whole right wing leaning natural self merging political base..it provides structure and allows you to subscribe to the experts..ya know ???

It gives a paradigm to follow and it seems very naturally holy. So I do get it..

But then 9-11 happened..and I was never the same again..that whole thing shattered into smithereens.
Re: Empathy
February 10, 2011 09:07AM
Sometimes I like to feel insenstive - and sometimes I know is was a bad move!!

For me you have to choose wisdom with sensitivity because without it you can get stuck in some pretty sensitive situations!!

LH
Oh my butt - what going on down there!
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