Empathy: the key to positive human interaction
Yesterday, I had a discussion about empathy with someone close to me who said: “Empathy is more necessary in human communication, but empathy without sympathy has no humanistic value. A scammer may feel empathy for you, but if he has no moral or feelings of sympathy, he can use that empathy against you. “
This made me reflect on empathy. For me, empathy is a process of understanding and feeling towards another person, as well as an internal reaction triggered by a signal from the other person.
On empathy, the Encyclopedia Britannica says:
“” The ability to imagine oneself in the place of another and understand the feelings, desires, ideas and actions of the other. It is a term coined at the beginning of the 20th century, equivalent to the German Einfühlung and based on the “sympathy” model.
The term empathy is used with a special, though not exclusive, reference to aesthetic experience. The most obvious example, perhaps, is that of the actor or singer who genuinely feels the role they are playing. With other works of art, a viewer can, by a kind of introjection, feel involved in what he observes or contemplates. The use of empathy is an important part of the counseling technique developed by the American psychologist Carl Rogers.
The practice of empathy, as an analytical method based on analogical thinking, can have its beginning in the first days of the existence of any human being, since babies learn empathy by imitating those who care for them. There is no way to compare, measure, observe, prove or disprove that the exact emotion is experienced identically by different people, but people can deeply identify with each other and this identification can lead to better understanding and emotional intimacy between people.
Empathy is more important in social settings than psychologically. The existence of empathy is a sign of healthy personal identity, self-awareness, self-esteem and, in the positive sense, self-love. When there is no empathy, an antisocial or psychopathic person can more easily exploit and abuse others.
In our time, since most of the social institutions that help develop empathy, such as the nuclear and extended family, clan, neighborhood, village, church, temple, or belief system, have deteriorated, narcissistic behavior has begun to replace empathy. This is widely reflected in the litigation, lack of tolerance and violence that is replicated in our popular culture, in the media, movies, video games, in international deals, etc.
The presence of empathy is the path that leads to sympathy, mercy, piety, charity and the joy of giving; therefore, contributing to a better and more civilized society.
Let’s take a closer look at empathy.
What is the purpose of empathy?
The purposes of empathy are:
To show that you care about the other person.
Foster close, helpful and meaningful relationships.
To learn more about other people.
Direct communication towards important emotional issues.
Letting the other person know that they are accepted for who they are, therefore encouraging them to open up.
To reduce your irritation with others because you understand them better. If you understand them, forgive them.
Reduce biases and eradicate negative assumptions, with an emphasis on the word “assumptions.”
Discover, eventually, that everyone is understandable and that everyone’s psyche can be penetrated.
The practice of empathy is difficult. Each person learns empathy to some degree as a matter of growing up and living in the world, but how do we actually practice empathy?
How to practice empathy:
I. Listen, listen, listen. The idea is that you really listen first; then you react. Listening is hard work and everyone can get distracted. Even when we get distracted, we have to pull ourselves together and get back on track as best we can.
During listening, listen effectively, especially in therapy …
1. You have to stop comparing yourself to the other person. For example, thinking: “I had it harder than him.” “He is more intelligent than me”. “Your wife is much better than mine.”
2. One should stop recalling their own experiences on the same topic while the other person is speaking.
3. Verbal give-and-take should not be viewed as an intellectual debate with the aim of belittling the other person.
4. You shouldn’t think you know everything, so you don’t need to listen to the other person.
5. One should not laugh at what the other is saying or try to change the subject before it becomes too serious.
6. One must stop appeasing the other person by saying, “You’re right.” “I agree.” “He did that to you! Really! What an idiot!” etc.
7. You have to stop trying to read the other person’s mind. For example, “He insists that he loves his wife. That may unconsciously mean that he does not love him.” “He’s looking out the window when he says he didn’t.” “You may think I’m stupid if I tell you that …”
8. You have to stop thinking about your next step or your response before the other person finishes speaking. For example, “How will I react to this when I have to respond to you? If I smile or nod, you may consider that I approve of your crime.”
9. You have to stop filtering what the other person says by concentrating on hearing only specific issues or important comments.
10. A statement from the other person should not be judged to be crazy, extreme, youthful, boring or aggressive.
II. Let the other person feel that they are listening to you. Nobody is perfect at this, but we can improve over time if we work on it.
1. One way to do this is to reflect the other person’s feelings. “This really hurts.” “You feel left out.” “You don’t feel important.” Focusing on the other person’s feelings encourages you to talk about those feelings and explore those feelings practically on your own.
2. Asking too many questions, giving critical answers or giving premature advice or reassuring the other person before they finish their words is counterproductive. It takes away the ability of the other person to solve their problem on their own by talking. Telling your own story or experience is not so bad if you don’t forget about other people’s concerns, pain, or problems.
3. One of the most common reasons for misunderstandings is our emotional reaction to what the other person is saying. If the person says something that triggers an emotion (such as anger, insecurity, pain, insult to our beliefs, etc.) that is not related to the person speaking, but is related to the listener, the listener may be distracted and therefore Therefore, you can miscalculate. the other person’s problem.
4. A correct answer encompasses the essence of the other person’s feelings. This may seem like the listener parrots the speaker, but it is an effective way of letting the person know that you are interested and hearing, for example, “You feel hurt”, “You are overwhelmed”. If we do not show any reaction or do not make any comments while the other person is speaking, you may take it as disinterest or disapproval or you may think that we do not understand.
5. While the other person is speaking, an empathic person may guess in advance what the other person is feeling and provide additional insight. At that point, at an opportune moment in the conversation, an interpretation more or less in the form of a question can help the speaker understand himself. For example, “Could it be that your mother is acting this way, because she can’t bear to lose you?” or “I wonder if his wife wanted to help him when he said that to his boss.”
Empathy, in general, is an important asset; however, introspection and empathy alone cannot create a perfect society. The best societies are made by the feelings and actions that arise as a result of empathy. For that purpose, empathy becomes the key that opens positive human interaction.