What is empathy in general? This word is quite common, and I would say almost everyone knows it and has heard it quite often already. Still, I’m asking myself: Do we really KNOW what empathy really IS? What means this word in detail? What kind of truth lays behind this word. Has it a special, big meaning we all don’t know?
Let’s look for an answer on this mystery 😀
What means “Empathy”?
Empathy means “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e. the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” This is what Wikipedia says about Empathy.
In my own words I would describe Empathy as “the capacity to feel another person’s feeling”. So actually to understand what a person is telling me what he or she is going through. To understand the pain, chaos, stress, panic, anger or in a positive way: joy, love, care, happiness, gratefulness or whatever he or she is feeling. Understand and being able to relate to the emotions referring.
How do we understand, feel and first of all: How do we know the feelings of another person? Before we can understand, we need to know the feelings of another Person and we need to acknowledge them.
Of course there is always communication. The person sitting in front of me is talking, telling, describing situations or something he or she is thinking about. So I hear the words he or she is saying. Second there is always body language. I can see how he or she behaves during talking. What kind of movements is the person doing with his arms, with his head, what does his or her upper body look like? Is it straight and strong, or is it small and there is a round back? What is he doing with his or her arms, is she or he protecting his upper body with his arms? Third, which I think is the most important part, is the movement in the face. Face language. Are the eyes moving quickly or do they last long at one point. Is the person blinking very often. Is there a smile on the face or a sad look.
All of these and many more aspects are important when it comes to the topic of understanding and feeling into a person.
Do not judge
What I think is also very important when it comes to empathy is: Non-judgement.
To understand and to not judge the person for his or her feelings. Imagine your partner is very angry or mad about something, for example mad about a person or about a particular situation he went through. He or she is telling you about it and you are judging him or her about the emotions coming up in your partner. Imagine you do not only judge your partner, no, you are also saying it oud loud.
What do you think will happen next? Will your partner be happy about being judged by a loved one? While he or she is already in a very bad mood? And already very emotional?
Yeah….He or she would be given a bad feeling because of the judgement. Your partner has not been accepted to open up, telling her or his inner feelings about being hurt, being sad, mad or anything else. These are negative feelings already, but being judged about it is even worse. The person will either feel sorry for having told you about his or her feelings. Or he would feel his or her feelings are not right, as the feedback, the judgement received is negative. And this negative feedback is causing a negative feeling to this person. So he or she will feel he is either not allowed to feel this or he or she is not allowed to tell you about these feelings.
So guess what is about to happen next. Your partner will always have the feeling of being not right. Feeling not right. The feeling may come up: ‘I have to change how I feel I have to change the person I am, I am not right the way I am.’
Try to understand the emotions of your partner.
Try to understand what the person feels like right now or what the person felt like when talking about a certain situation. And try not to judge. Which is very tough, I know. People (me including ;)) tend to have an opinion about everything. Some examples: The weather is bad, the food is good, the tv show is funny, the movie I went to last week was boring and so on and so on, all of this are opinions and judgements. Of course these things are topics of smalltalk as well and not that important, and you just tell what your food, the movie and your weekend was about, this is totally normal. But when it comes to feelings, the feelings of your partner, and even just as important: your own feelings, try first to acknowledge them, then secondly try not to judge them in order to avoid a negative feeling to your partner and also to yourself. Instead of judging you can think to yourself: This is how it is. I do not put an opinion on it, it is just the way it is.
Ok so we have acknowledged the feelings, we listened to our partner and now we are very strong and we do not judge, and better we do not judge and just accept things the way they are. Very good already 🙂
Feeling empathy already? 😉
What is next? Are we feeling empathy already? Oh yeah, baby we are very close, let’s go on:
The next step is: Being supportive. Be there with your head, with your heart, even with your own feelings. Be with your partner when he or she is telling you about his or her feelings. Just be with him in this moment. Emotionally. When you are there with your partner, fully committed and fully attentive, your partner will notice and will feel safe with you sharing his emotions and thoughts. He will feel understood. He will feel that someone is there and listening to his inner demons. Watch your partner while talking, what is he or she going through right now and what could he or she need right now from you? If you do not know, just ask your partner what he would need right now. I know that women very often just need a person who is just listening. Nothing more. Just sitting, looking, listening.
Also, what I think is necessary and very important: Do not start talking about yourself, your own thoughts and your own problems after your partner just told you something what must have been very great or very sad or bad for him or her. Imagine, you are opening up now, you are totally within your emotion, you are feeling the pain again, the sadness or the great joy you have had from a certain situation and you are enjoying to tell or feel relieved to tell someone you love. You just finish your sentence and the next thing you hear is that your partner is feeling this and that and so on. He or she starts immediately to talk about him -/herself. As if the words you just said do not mean anything.
You may get the question into your head whether he or she has heard you at all just now. The problem here is, when getting overwhelmed with your own emotions, and still just being in the Emotion, while someone else is already telling his or her emotions, you might feeling someone intruded into your “Emotion-world”. If you know what I mean, you will understand. 😉 You do not want your partner to feel like that, therefore:
Don’t do that! Especially not with your partner. Just listen and be with him, your own problems and yourself is to put aside for a moment 😉
So this is how to give your partner the feeling of being safe, being home, been understood and being cared for. This is empathy.
What feeling in the world can outmatch the feeling of being understood and feeling safe??
It’s hard for me to find any better feeling 😉
I think every person just craves a place on earth, a place in someones heart to feel safe, home and feel inner peace.
If you love your partner, try to be this place, this person your partner can feel like home with. Who knows, maybe he will return the favor to you 🙂
Love is the answer,