In Growing with others we find empathy.
We demonstrate empathy by understanding and sharing another person’s experiences and emotions.
When things happen to us (good or bad) we experience it deeply and it becomes engraved in our hearts forever. What’s more profound is that when things that have happened to us, happen to someone else, there is a connection that we feel towards that person. A connection that is derived from the experience and the growth we have had to undergo over time. We feel, we understand, and oftentimes we are instantly drawn and seek ways to express our support towards others.
Several years ago, my bank account was hacked and the sum of $1,200 was transferred out of my savings account. I was online at the time and was able to immediately contact my bank and have them freeze my account.
Of course, I was at the bank bright and early the next day. Thinking this would only take a moment, I was tossed around and then told there was nothing they could do – the money was gone (there was no insurance protection on my account so if they said it was gone, well… it was gone).
Story cut short: After much persistence, I was able to get a resolution. Somehow the transaction had not gotten through. Because I was fast enough to call them to cancel the transaction and freeze my account, the money was “hanging”. No, I didn’t care what financial jargon/logic made that happen as long as it meant this never happened (lol). Excited to say that I got my money back – in full! (Whew!!)
As if on queue, two weeks after my incident with the bank, a colleague of mine was scammed and defrauded for nearly $2,000. Because I had just had a similar experience, I immediately shared all the steps I took to resolve it. Unfortunately for him, even though he tried everything, he could not get his money back. My initial intent was to solve his problem because I not only understood the situation, I had also experienced it. But when it didn’t work out for him as it did for me, I felt even worse. Just imagining if that was my story, made me feel bad. I kept asking myself, “Why did my experience not help him achieve a positive outcome as well?”
Well, demonstrating empathy may not necessarily mean that you have personally experienced the same emotions or situations. It is also usually represented out of a sense of “putting yourself in someone else shoes” such that you feel what they feel. Or simply put, being empathetic means there lies within you the capacity to recognize someone else’s state of mind when they go through certain events in their life.
Lessons Learned Through Empathy.
Empathy is different from sympathy in that it is not just a feeling of pity or being sorry for someone’s loss or misfortune but that of a deep understanding of a person’s predicament followed by actions to help alleviate their problem. When this happens, there is a ripple effect to that action as well. Here are the lessons I’ve come to learn through empathy:
1. Don’t be a problem solver.
I had just shared a similar experience so I understood completely how my colleague was feeling. I was sad that the positive outcome from my experience couldn’t help him solve his. When he expressed his appreciation to me for supporting him through this misfortune, I was reminded that sometimes people do not need you to solve their problems; they need you to be there for them as they go through it. There is something more important than being a problem solver. People often just need someone they can lean on, someone who understands them even if they have no solution.
In growing with others, we discover just how empathetic we can be. We learn that sometimes, in comforting and uplifting others, we become a better version of ourselves. By being a source of inspiration and encouragement when needed, we help them find the courage to overcome their problems.
2. Empathy does help people grow.
When you express empathy towards others, the first set of feelings that you experience is that of peace and accomplishment. Having peace of mind eases built-up tensions and contributes to your mental and physical health. Having a sense of accomplishment motivates you to yearn towards self-improvement as you continue to help others.
By showing empathy towards others, you will find that it:
- displaces negativity towards others and yourself
- helps cultivate the feeling of mindfulness and positivity
- strengthens your communication skills
- promotes teamwork and healthy relationships
How do you react to others with situations you can relate to? By empathizing, do you attempt to solve their problems? Or do you simply remain in the state of understanding and silently comfort them?
Final Thoughts: Having the same feelings as another person is a form of demonstrating empathy. It helps to cohabitate with one another easier and sustainably. I believe it ultimately helps us grow into reasonably fine humans!
This is episode 3 of my Growing with Others Series. To catch up on new episodes, click the subscribe button below.