The word “empathy” came to me through diverse situations and sparked my enthusiasm to share a few thoughts on the topic in the context of a “Life Lived Forward.”
Empathy is a broad concept that refers to the cognitive and emotional reactions of an individual to the observed, wide range of experiences of another. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. It is usually associated with being able to “put ourselves in another person’s shoes” – understanding the other person’s perspective and appreciation of reality so we can better respond to the situation and the potential to develop compassion and offer a helping hand.
Becoming empathetic requires thinking beyond ourselves and our personal concerns, in the understanding that others concerns and points of view are as valuable as our own. We enhance our ability to do so by opening to the varied ways in which others approach life. Empathy has abundant benefits. It is a key ingredient of successful relationships as it facilitates understanding the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others. It creates a sense of well-being. It reduces stress and fosters resilience. Empathy expands the potential for personal and social growth, and for creative thinking and action.
Communications are impacted by the degree of our empathy. When we understand the feelings of another person in a given situation and understand why their actions make sense to them, we are better equipped to communicate our own ideas in a way that may make sense to them. Enhancing communication requires intent listening without preconceived assumptions. Understanding the individual uniqueness of our personal experience facilitates this process.
Some ways to cultivate empathy involve challenging ourselves, exploring feelings in addition to thoughts, and finding ways to ask questions that are conducive to deeper communication and understanding.
Some affirmations I have found valuable in highlighting the potential for becoming more empathetic include:
- I constantly rejoice in the good that comes to others.
- My heart is receptive to new understanding from every source.
- Everyday I enter every experience with the whole of myself.
- My heart re-echoes peace from every heart.
- I acknowledge the infinity of resource.
By Mayte Picco-Kline