A Fight & A Life Altering Insight
I learned the valuable lesson of seeing things from someone else's point of view the hard way. In this blog post, I will share how I came to understand that empathy for others can make us all a little better and 6-steps to having more of it in your life!
Just three days after I lost my first pregnancy, I decided a new dress would make everything better. I had spotted the dress a week earlier, but it didn’t work with my growing belly. I nearly jumped out of bed, filled with excitement over my mission. A lot was riding on this dress.
Walking into the store full of optimism and excitement, I was met by chaos. Clothes were in a heap, and the only person working was on the phone. Determined, I rummaged through the entire department and ultimately claimed victory. I took the dress to the cash register where, you guessed it, the cashier was still on the phone. I waited, still on the phone. To make a long story short, I lost my cool. In turn, the cashier responded with unpleasantries as well. There was more back and forth before I left the store. Furious and without the new dress. I stewed on the interaction for days. Recounting the story to my husband, I heard myself and didn't like what I heard. A dress wasn't going to make me happy. This was crazy. Embarrassed, I went back to Macy's, hoping the same girl would be there so I could apologize. Luckily she was there. I apologized, and much to my surprise received one in return. She shared with me that she was in the middle of dealing with her bad news that day. I was so focused on my situation that I couldn't see her pain. Similarly, she couldn't see my pain. That moment was a lightbulb moment for me. The reality is we never really know the full story or the emotions that shape someone else's mindset.
Empathy is generally defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. But what if that's not a skill you currently posses? Like anything, the more you practice the better you will be.
6-Steps to Building Empathy
Connect On A Personal Level. Go out of your way to initiate conversations with friends, co-worker, family members, and even the stranger ahead of you in the Starbucks line. Ignite your curiosity and make it personal.
Listen To What is Being Said. Starting the conversation is the first-step, but actively listening is what equally important. When possible, put your phone away or turn the music down to allow for more dedicated focus. To keep the conversation going, show signs of listening such as eye contact, nodding, and asking for clarification as appropriate.
Take Note Of Emotions. It might require a little imagination, but as you are having your conversation pay attention to what that person is feeling. Pay attention to what makes them happy or sad.
Be Vulnerable. After actively listening, try to think of a time you were in a similar situation. Remember what you felt in that situation and express your feelings to the other person.This will help you connect on a deeper level and allow for a honest and mutual connection.
Use Your Imagination. It's impossible to relate to every experience. If you encounter a situation you haven't dealt with before, you will have to rely on some imagination in order to truly empathize with that person.