Let’s be honest with ourselves, how many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone you care for was in a bad spot and not-so-good place, but you just didn’t know how to console or comfort them? That despite being a close friend or dear loved one, you can’t muster up the words or know the appropriate course of action to alleviate the pain they’re going through or at least help them in the slightest?
In fact, the majority of people tend to experience these uncomfortable scenarios. Whether it’s because the world’s so hung up on romcom logic, resolutions based on fiction, or a general disconnect with emotion, it seems we’ve all lost our touch with empathy. So, today we’re going to do just that, finding our way back and relearning what it truly means to understand someone and why this aspect is crucial to living a holistic and fulfilling life.
What Does Empathy Mean?
In a nutshell, empathy refers to our skill of understanding someone, putting ourselves in their shoes, and offering the appropriate form of communication and support that they need. In a sense, empathy is often synonymous with kindness, with it being the necessary bridge toward promoting more happiness in the world.
- Social and Emotional Skill: Empathy is a skill because nobody is born with an innate talent of reading the room, analyzing emotions, comprehending tangled thoughts, and offering support. Much like how an athlete trains and eats a healthy diet, to be empathic requires being observant and an active listener. And the more you learn and experience, the greater your capacity to discern social contexts and perceive emotions. Therefore, it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of bumps on the road before you can say that you’ve reached any golden standard.
- Communication and Support: Secondly, empathy isn’t only concerned with the analytical aspect but also prides itself in taking action and knowing the right thing to do. Remember, the goal is to help others cope through hard times, alleviate their pain, or being their shoulder to cry on, and sometimes, you’ll have to be all three. Even if it’s just offering some sensitive advice or the words they need to hear.
Why Is It Important?
Of course, while people can move forward in life without retracing their steps back to empathy, can you really consider a life lived to the fullest if you don’t value the emotional aspect? An integral part of us social beings is our ability to discern and perceive emotion, and disregarding such a critical role in our life would be slicing our potential in half. ;
- Crucial to Our Personal Growth: You see, our accumulated experiences, lessons, and memories throughout life all add up into a view of reality that exists only through our eyes. However, not everyone sees the world the same way, and secluding ourselves from just one way of understanding reality limits our personal development. By being more inclusive and breaking down how others view things, you’ll be able to engage in reflection and realization, two key ingredients for growth.
- Prevents Bad Situations: A downside to undervaluing the significance of empathy in life is that it leads to unsightly situations where your words and actions come off as insensitive, crude, and needlessly harsh. If you only took the time to think and understand before making any move, you could potentially prevent many unnecessary bad situations from happening.
How Do We Practice Empathy?
Lucky for us, there are plenty of ways to practice empathy and find our way back on the right track to kindness. Sure, it’s not a goal you can achieve overnight, but you’ll start to notice the changes in both how you feel and how others perceive your support over time. Plus, having a keen eye and listening to others are generally good skills to have too!
#1 Being Honest and Admitting Your Shortcomings
Firstly, you want to be honest with yourself and admit your shortcomings. We can’t expect to train our ability to understand if we refuse to begin with ourselves first, and that goes for any other skill involving emotions as well. So, please don’t shy away from unpacking burdens you’ve been carrying for so long because the act of removing such a weight off your shoulders will make it much easier to understand what others are trying to say. ;
#2 Caring for Friends and Loved Ones
Secondly, it’s never a bad idea to call up and care for your friends and loved ones. Especially during this transitionary period where the world is teetering in the new normal, we all crave for someone to confide in and provide us some level of comfort. So, even if it’s just lending an ear or giving a digital hug, all of these things count. And, if you want to spread empathy and kindness elsewhere, consider some volunteer work in the community or helping out in retirement homes.
Escape From the Prison of Negativity
Everyone is different, but despite all the aspects that make us unique, we all deserve a chance at inner peace and the opportunity to escape from the prison of negativity. So, take these simple steps with you and try your hand at rediscovering empathy as well. Who knows, you might reinforce old bonds and spark stronger ones in new relationships!