It’s often said that you get to know about the real side of people when you need them the most. True are the ones who stay with you in thick and thin and feel the same. Life is a roller-coaster ride, and not all days are the same. Everybody goes through highs and lows. Situations, people, emotions can be different, but one thing everyone has in common is a person who can empathize with you and the situation you are going through. We all have that one friend, well-wisher, a family person or just some stranger who lands perfectly in the situation and makes us feel better in the whole scenario.
We as humans have several emotions, and ‘empathy’ is one such emotion that connects us with other humans with more kindness, love and compassion. But, ‘empathy’ is often confused with ‘sympathy’, where both mean different. Let’s understand this.
Empathy means to ‘feel with’ the person, to feel the same pain a person is going through, being in his/her shoes. When you empathize with other, you try and understand the situation more like them and not as you. Some people may not be able to empathize in every situation, but some are naturally empathetic. Feeling empathetic can differ from person to person. For some, you may feel more empathetic, and for some, you may feel less. Example: Your friend’s father died, you know what exactly he is going through as you lost your father a few years back and you try to bring your friend out of the grief.
Sympathy, on the other hand, means to ‘feel for’ that person or situation, wherein you can’t do anything for them. When a person offers sympathy to other, he is just trying to make other person feel comfortable about the situation and feels sorry about it. Actually, he knows that he can’t do much to change the person’s situation. Example: Your friend is hurt because of some office politics, and you can’t do anything except feel sorry about it.
Empathy can be learned! Yes, you read it right, try to ‘listen’ to what people want to say. Give them the feeling that they are being heard and there is someone who can bring them out from their present situation without being judged.
How can you be empathetic?
- Listen to what others have to say without any inhibitions.
- DO NOT JUDGE them in any case.
- You can be the first one to approach if you find someone in distress or suffering.
- Understand the problem or situation first before offering any help or suggestions.
- Advice is FREE, but be WISE when giving advice.
- Help others without any expectations or returns from them.
- Try to be in the person’s shoes but don’t get too carried away.
- You may not always agree with other people’s opinion but to empathize with them you need to listen and understand them first.
- Ask questions and dig deeper if someone approaches you for his/her problem.
- Be patient as much as you can.
There is a fine line and the minimal difference between Empathy and Sympathy, but empathy can make a huge difference in people. Empathy allows you to make connections and build healthy relationships with people. It creates a sense of healing and helps in offering resolutions to people suffering from problems. You can help yourself as empathizing helps in building emotional regulation and manage your feelings without being overwhelmed. It also helps in promoting good behavior and brings in nature of helping others, and when you empathize with others there is a chance that even people will empathize with you when you are in need.
As rightly quoted by Alfred Adler, “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”
Next time you meet people try to understand them better, listen more, love more and help more.