the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
It might be believed that a person is born with the ability to have empathy. I believe it can be learned. It might take extra time or effort, however.
To me, the definition of empathy is to take the time to pretend you are in the other person’s situation and validate their experience.
It doesn’t mean I have to agree or share their perspective but I try to put aside my own bias and try to see it their way.
I’ve used the following questions to help me achieve that perspective:
- How would I feel it that happened to me?
- What do I think I would do in that situation?
- What situation have I experienced that is close? How did it make me feel?
- Why do I agree/disagree with how they are reacting/their opinion?
I’ve observed that I most often react to a trigger; a trigger to something painful in my past, and experience a range of emotions. I then think everyone should view the situation as I do. I mean, my solution is just common sense!! But. I’ve observed that each person will see situations differently depending on their own hurts. Take for example, witnesses of an accident, each person had a different view of what happened. No one story is wrong; it’s just not complete. Or the story of a group of blind men touching a different part of an elephant and only that part of the elephant. They come together to try to decide what it was but they all disagree.
I might never see the whole elephant or be convinced it’s an elephant. I realize I can’t completely understand another’s view/situation/opinion but I can allow space for them to think/feel/decide that way.
Update: A friend shared this video with me after I posted my thoughts. I wanted to add it because it’s a great representation of what I am trying to say.