by KANCHAN AGARWAL | 19 MAY 2018
Empathy: n. the ability to imagine and understand the thoughts, perspective, and emotions of another person (Source: Oxford Dictionary of Psychology)
Empathy is a key tool in the art of getting by as it is an important component of human interactions especially when they are organic and imperfect. Whenever we are in a situation, there are people involved, almost always. We humans don’t live alone, neither can we survive alone. We are an interdependent species. One produces what he is skilled to produce while another uses that output to fulfill his needs to survive, and vice versa. Transactions between people might be over objects, ideas or emotional support. Empathy makes these transactions go smoothly. For example: a mother would not know what battles to choose when dealing with her toddler if she can’t empathise with him and understand what is important to him in that situation at that place and time, and why is it so — especially when a child’s world can so easily become negligible from the eyes of an adult swarmed by big world responsibilities. How does a Product Designer know which design to finalize if not by observing what kind of features the majority of potential customers find most useful? Can a marriage really last for decades if two people living together can’t look beyond their own problems and consider the challenges their partner might be quietly going through? Hence, empathy is the binding agent between any two parties coming together in a situation. It brings people closer and helps them develop relationships of all kinds.
Read these 5 ways in which you can mindfully apply your empathetic skills and create positive experiences for yourself and the people you are interacting with:
To resolve conflicts: If two people involved in an interaction with each other are true to themselves, they are likely to face a conflict of some kind at some point during the interaction. Negotiation may be required at such instances. You can come up with a win-win solution if you can listen deeply and put yourself in the other’s situation. Not only that, if you are able to narrate your situation in a manner which makes it easy for the listener to empathize with you, you may have a chance of finding a solution which works for both of you.
Self-understanding: All human beings are capable of feeling every thing. Sometimes when society defines for us what is wrong, we lose sight of our authentic selves. That is why when we are among friends who can offer us their empathy, or when we watch a fictional character feel what’s considered taboo in a situation similar to one from our own lives, we are able to, in a way, empathise with ourselves which leads us to an understanding of ourselves and that guides us in being kinder to ourselves first.
Whom to trust: By using your empathetic skills, you can learn to gauge whether someone is being genuine, or if their convictions are real and that their words match their intentions. This can help you in staying optimistic in a realistic manner and choose what’s best for you.
Better help/service: If you are really interested in helping others or making someone feel good about themselves, you ought to understand their reality before you offer them any kind of support. Otherwise, you might end up making the situation worse by putting them in your shoes instead of putting yourself in their shoes. That happens! For example: if you need to buy a gift for someone you love, would you buy what they like or what you think is nice or cool?
Traveller’s survival tool: When travellers are away from home, they are able to find comfort among new people in strange lands simply because the residents are able to understand the simple reality of the traveller and the traveller is able to understand theirs. The fact that we are able to have a friendly chat with someone we know absolutely nothing about shows the powerful capacity of empathy.
Take a second here and imagine how these interdependent transactions would take place if empathy was not part of the equation. Would humans be as evolved as we have come to be? Would we have helped each other? Or felt the need to change when life threw a challenge?
Finally, remember that we need to be empathised with as much as we need to empathise with others for when our needs are met, can we go on fulfilling others’ needs.
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