Today, I feel like writing about an article on how to be more Empathetic because I feel that we as people often get really caught up in our own internal world that we forget/fail to see the world of those who we are engaging in interactions with. For example, these people could be our lovers, friends, families or even strangers. You listen to their stories and you most likely like more caring individuals want to do something for them. But you don’t really know how because you don’t really know how they’ll perceive your actions. And sometimes you may think that your actions are benefiting them when in reality it is making things worse for them. Let me first give a few examples of counter-empathetic responses:
1. Advice Giving. - When we tell someone something, we are not necessarily looking for advice, but just to be heard. This is true especially if it’s a problem the individual has been facing for a really long time. If even they can’t find a resolution to their own problems, how do you expect that your advice is going to help them? Furthermore, advices sometimes minimizes a person’s experiences, because giving advice sort of shows that you understand their experiences better than they understand theirs. When giving advice, be really cautious and try to really think in their perspective and see if the advice would really be what they need.
2. Criticizing. The last thing we need is someone criticizing our actions or choices of actions that had led to our problems. There is a time and place for criticisms, but when someone first open up to you, never criticize. If you want to give constructive feedback, frame the feedbacks as questions. For example, instead of saying “You shouldn’t have done that, because it’s what led you to the problem” you could say “What if you have done this instead? Would the results have been different?”
3. Talking more than the other person. When someone is opening up, you want to encourage them to keep talking. If you find yourself talking more than them, then you are taking the experiences of opening up away from them. Keep your mouth shut and only speak to convey empathy. This encourages the other person to speak more and it communicates that you are listening.
4. Self-disclosing about yourself when the other person is the one opening up. For example, when you say “Me too” , “I’ve been in a similar situation,” or “This has happened to me too so let me talk about myself as well.” I’m sort of guilty for this at times because I can’t help it but be able to relate to others in some aspects. Sometimes, I want to bond a little closer so I self-disclose. However, self-disclosure is risky because you are essentially comparing your experiences to someone else and you’re communicating that there experiences are not really that unique. Be really careful how you self-disclose and mindful if it communicates empathy or not. Self-disclosure can make you more authentic as a person because it shows the other person you could relate to them, and it can encourage the other person to open up knowing that you’ve been there too and they might seek advice from someone’s who’s been through it. Sometimes, the people we want to seek advice from are the ones who’s been through what we’ve been through.