Practicing empathy on weekdays
We can see practicing empathy like an opportunity which occurs if some special conditions are attained. Since we have limited time usually in social interactions and our focus can be easily disturbed, that’s why conditions are not attained in most of our social situations. To reach deep level of empathy like level 5-6 not just quiet environment is necessary but also it requires experience. These two conditions attains mainly when we have therapy with a professional. Improving our empathic ability has several ways, like looking for professional help. This way is trustworthy and the success is guaranteed. The other one takes time, possible to fail. The key is in both ways make an effort to overshadowing ourselves and psyching up with other people. Make an effort to pay more attention to another and try to feel him/her but also in the meantime observe our own emotions and impressions.
With practicing we can achieve that this ability is able to become an attitude, which makes us to live our life and acting with people more circumspectly.
How to start?
I collected some disturbing attitudes which prevent us to be an empath. Here they are:
- During my talks I’m starting to think about things which are nothing to do with the other person has to say;
- Instead of listening to another after few words I am already thinking what I am going to say;
- I start to label the other person on the basis of what she/he says;
- I filter information from the other person according to what I have known about him/her;
- I often interrupt the other person;
- I often interrupt the other person in his/her train of thoughts;
- I often sit like the other person can’t keep eye contact with me;
- I don’t give nonverbal signs of listening;
- I don’t pay attention his/her nonverbal communication or I easily can misinterpret it;
- I use labels like “after all she is a woman, isn’t she?”;
- I preach – I tell to the other person what he/she should do;
- I establish a “diagnose” very fast and persist in it;
- I push away the other person’s fear instead of understanding them. Like “Oh it’s so foolish” or “It is not relevant”;
- I use clichés like “Which done is done!”;
- I often undervalue topics and saying like “You should not be sad because of this!”
- I often give fake satisfaction saying like “Don’t worry it can’t happen.”;
- I often become inpatient when another tries to explain the situation detailed;
- I often doesn’t accept the other person’s feelings saying like “It’s stupid that you feel like this.”;
- I play and change the subject getting more attention;
- I often stay in silence and just listen without saying a word.
First step is to observe ourselves if we have one of those attitudes or some of them. After we could have identified try to avoid them, like if we feel like to interrupt the other person force ourselves not to do it, keep our focus on what she/he is saying. Some of these attitudes are about stereotypes what we have and some of them are connected to lack of communication skills. Like not giving eye contact or not saying “I see” or not summarizing what she/he said. Profound self-knowledge is essential to become an empath or improving our empathic ability.
Do an experiment! Observe yourself which attitude you have from the list above. Trust me it is not that easy as its sounds. After recognition try to find the answer why you have this attitude, what its origin is. Or how often you do it and how it influences your social relationships. Test yourself!
Next week I give you exercises and characteristics of an empath.
Sources: Joseph P. Forgas: Interpersonal Behaviour. The psychology of Social Interaction (1985)
Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman: Social Intelligence