Empathy: The Missing Piece To Today’s Puzzle
If the world had more empathy, it might reach total peace a bit sooner.
In an earlier post, I wrote about empathy and the importance of its existence in any relationship we form throughout the course of our lives. We must accept those who come from different backgrounds, hold different opinions, encourage perspectives different from ours, and those who question the direction of our journey.
Much of the societal conflict that exists today is a direct result of a lack of empathy (at least this is my first belief). I have found that while many people will preface a situation that challenges the status quo with ‘I just don’t understand,’ oftentimes, it is because they never made the attempt to in the first place. In writing about the realization I recently had regarding the refusal to refer to those who are facing addiction as ‘addicts,’ I implored readers to join me in this mindset.
This feels to be essential in order to achieve growth among our peers and acquaintances. Tragedy happens at an alarming rate of frequency and many of us adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude until it hits a bit closer to home. Why is that? I am convinced that many of us have become immune to others’ emotional distress. When a person shares something eventful in their life that rocks the foundation of their emotional stability, many of us are capable of simple condolences and then continuing on with our day. It is less often that a person stops what they are doing and listens to the subliminal messaging in their words.
We hear: “I am so over life never cutting me a break” rather than, “I feel like giving up on life.’
We hear: “I wish it were that easy for me to lose weight. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror half the time” rather than, “I hate myself.”
We hear: “Man, every single day here makes me want to drink” rather than, “I’m struggling with something bigger.”
I am uncertain if it is the mere inability for some to express empathy or if it is the refusal to accept other people’s stress into our own lives. I have written before that while you don’t need anyone else’s advice, sometimes it is helpful to provide advice to yourself as if you are speaking to another person about their situation. If this practice becomes second nature in self-talk, it should eventually become feasible outside of internal discussion.
You Don’t Need Anyone Else’s Advice
All the answers you need, you already have. You just have to start speaking in the third person to find them.
I feel confident that if many of us were to take the moment necessary to step back and re-evaluate the situation and the meaning behind the words being spoken to us, that we would reach a sense of understanding much sooner. It isn’t about the capability of understanding, but the willingness to. I don’t believe people were ever meant to be selfish or without care towards others, but over time it has become the easiest thing to do when on auto-pilot.
Recalling experiences in a sales role, a part of the job was to take the personal discussion with a grain of salt. When a business owner shares their reality and the reason why they cannot meet with me that week or why it isn’t a good time to change an aspect of their business processes, it was my job to briefly acknowledge before continuing to ‘soft close.’ While this can be seen as a challenge to a person’s moral compass, imagine how easy it can become to exercise this same practice with experiences outside of work.
This can be the case with many things that we go through in life, whether it be the military, the loss of a loved one, betrayal, or the number of other potential occurrences in life that can reshape your emotional status. Furthermore, the things that can create a fundamental shift in your natural reaction to other people’s distress.
Begin to hear the words coming from the person’s mouth, listen to the emotion each brings, and react accordingly. Rather than simply stating, ‘I’m sorry,’ try saying something more specific, ‘I am so sorry that you are having to go through ______.’ Imagine the last time you opened up and received a response that lacked empathy. If you are anything like me, you likely felt a little foolish for sharing in the first place. Now imagine that habit replicated over and over again to where it forms a habit across society that makes it nearly impossible to react from a place of empathy and ultimately, understanding.
The next time a person says they lost a loved one, acknowledge, relate, and comfort them. If someone comes to you for emotional support about their relationship drama, listen to them and accept the actual message being relayed.
Each of us has the ability to react with empathy because we have all experienced at least one curve-ball (perhaps more) from life. Rather than taking the emotion and bottling it for your own self-destruction later, apply this emotional experience to the next conversation that might could use it.
The greatest feeling in those moments comes with the realization that you are not alone, nor misunderstood.